‘Surgery with an axe’
Opposition Leader Owen Arthur has likened Chris Sinckler’s handling of the economy to a surgeon operating with an axe.
Noting the need for “sound, new innovative approaches” to the management of our public finance, Arthur said in relation to the Minister of Finance’s handling of fiscal matters:
“It is clear to all that the Government of Barbados cannot pay its current bills. It is equally clear that it is not going to be able to continue to expand expenditure, especially in areas that are of strategic importance to the well being of the Barbadian society.
“Adjustments will have to be made. Dealing with this matter is where the Government and the Minister of Finance have shown their greatest failing. There has been no clear thinking; no new innovative approach.
“Rather Sinckler has given us the full benefit of his ignorance and inexpertise on financial matters, and has brought to bear to the fullest extent a crude, autocratic and duplicitous nature where such is not needed.
“Sinckler has this year alone ordered two sets of cuts to expenditures by Ministries. But yet he would wish to have it appear that he is above doing such things, and that it is the BLP that wants to cut Government’s spending to send home people.
“He also functions like a doctor who, while doing surgery on someone’s head, prefers to use an axe rather than a scalpel. For as happened with the cuts to the drug service, wild swings were made to cut everything, in a manner that seriously hurt pensioners, and those having special circumstances that need special care, who ought not to have been made subject to chops in the access to the drugs.
“And it is especially duplicitous for Sinckler to have announced, as he has, that the DLP wants to privatise major public enterprises and to reduce Government’s transfers to statutory boards but then seeks to falsely suggest that the BLP has concocted some secret plan to use such policies to send home 10,000 public servants by privatising and reducing transfers.”
Above all, he added, Government’s approach to the crisis in its expenditure reflects its inability to govern.
When far-reaching actions have to be taken that can affect people’s access to benefits and entitlements, he warned, Government must not act crudely nor unilaterally. It must build a national consensus for what needs to be done, he said.
Referring to the former Government’s taking a broad approach to a potential crisis at the National Insurance Scheme, in which a task force was constituted to come up with reforms after wide consultation.
“We have proposed to Government over and over again that a similar approach is needed to deal with the crisis in the public finances,” he added. “It has fallen on deaf ears. We have gone as far as to set out proposals which we think can help, which I wish to repeat again today.
“First, if adjustments have to be made to our citizens’ access to services paid for by the state, across the board cuts should not be made. The poor, our senior citizens, those with disabilities and having special needs must continue to enjoy free access to critical public services.
“Secondly, if adjustments have to be made, Government should provide incentives to allow citizens whose income are above the threshold where it is liable to tax, and the private sector to seek to fill the void in the provisions of social services which Government may leave behind…
“Third, we propose that special incentives be provided to the private sector to make investments in new health care and educational facilities, treating them as areas for private sector growth in the future.
“Fourth, we are prepared to go as far as possible in respect of the privatisation of state enterprises, provided that the proceeds are used to pare down the public debt, or to support public sector capital expenditure.
“And fifth, we strongly support the use of private-public sector partnerships on matters such as the revitalisation of Bridgetown and Speightstown, as ways by which the private sector’s role in the economy can expand as Government’s expenditure is brought under control.” (RRM)