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Let’s hear ‘experts’

Campaigning for next Thursday’s general elections is at its high point and heading into the last lap. No doubt we can expect the two parties to pull out all the stops as they try to convince electors to make them the next Government.

With the Barbados Labour Party making its manifesto public tonight and the Democratic Labour Party set to do the same tomorrow night, we can also expect that over the next five days lots of energy will be put into selling the many proposals.

We hope that the job of making sense will not be left entirely to Mr. and Mrs. John Public, but that the experts at the University of the West Indies, the Barbados Economic Society, the accountants body, the representative organisation of doctors, the trade unions and all the others with the appropriate resources will join the debate.

We believe this is particularly important because we are dealing with local and international circumstances that are impacted by factors well outside our jurisdiction that ought to be explained to the general population, within the context of what the parties promise.

And if there is anyone who doubts that these manifestos ought to be scrutinised even more closely than usual, they only need to look at the latest news out of Europe about economic performance there.

Here’s what the BBC reported this morning: The eurozone recession deepened in the final three months of 2012, official figures show.

The economy of the 17 nations in the euro shrank by 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, which was worse than forecast.

It is the sharpest contraction since the beginning of 2009 and marks the first time the region failed to grow in any quarter during a calendar year.

It followed news that the economies of Germany, France and Italy had all shrunk by more than expected.

A recession is usually defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction. In the first three months of 2012 the eurozone economy failed to grow, but then in the second quarter of the year it contracted by 0.2 per cent and it shrank by 0.1 per cent in the third quarter.

The GDP numbers sent the euro lower. It fell to a three-week low against the US dollar of $1.3320.

Carsten Brzeski from ING said: “These are horrible numbers, it’s a widespread contraction, which does not match this positive picture of stabilisation and positive contagion.”

But he added: “We still expect growth to return in the course of 2013 but any return of growth will be very small which means that the social impact of this recession, especially in the peripheral countries will be still a very severe one.”

This is nothing to scoff at because tourism remains our number one foreign exchange earner, and the United Kingdom our number one source market. Anything that has a negative impact on Europe will have a direct bearing on the performance of Britain — the economies are to inter-twined to expect anything else.

We need to ask some serious questions about how we will sustain what we already have, far less what new things might be promised — and we refer to both political camps. We continue to hold the view that there is more we could have done to help ourselves since the recession started nearly five years ago, but we are not so naive as to believe we could have negated all fallout.

We recognise that we are writing ahead of the contents of the two manifestos being made public, but if past promises for the purpose of catching voters are anything to judge by, these will be no different — except perhaps that they may be more finely wrapped, given the general skepticism held by so many people.

We look forward to robust debate that is void of party political biases that would make the whole exercise useless.

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