Take charge

by Roy Morris

Former Opposition Leader, Owen Arthur speaking to reporters today after the swearing-in of he and his colleagues.
Former Opposition Leader, Owen Arthur (File photo)

Fire Chris Sinckler and take on the Ministry of Finance yourself!

That was the advice of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur to the current office holder, Freundel Stuart, following yesterday’s economic report by Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Dr. Delisle Worrell.

More importantly though, said Arthur in an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, the Government needs to immediately establish a task force of the best technical minds in the country to determine how it will go about dealing with the issue of public expenditure.

In fact, Arthur warned that if the Government proceeds with the $400-plus million cut in public expenditure as it has been suggesting in recent weeks, it will throw the economy into cardiac arrest — a condition that will do even more harm.

Cutting $400 million, he said, would be as bad as doing nothing.

“I believe that the country is now bewildered,” Arthur said. “The situation that now obtains is not one in which people can make informed and sensible decisions. There has effectively been a turn-around of $1 billion in the policy stance of the Government.

“In March in the Estimates Debate the Minister of Finance was speaking in terms of a $600 million stimulus and now he is talking about the need for a $450 million cut… This is over a period of a few weeks, and the result is that this environment is now so bewildering that the most important thing is not going to be the individual cuts, but the restoration of confidence in our policy formulation.

“Somebody with real authority and credibility has to take charge of our economic affairs. In the case of Central Bank Governor Dr. DeLisle Worrell, he was telling the country a few weeks ago that the economic situation was stable and that there was no need for a change of policy.”

According to Arthur, he and Opposition consultant on economic matters, economist Clyde Mascoll, have been complaining about the absence of full disclosure by the Government, which would provide Barbadians with credible data on which to make their determinations.

“Worrell has done the people of this country a major disservice by not consistently telling them ‘These are the circumstances’. This is no longer a case for Worrell.

“In the case of [Minister of Finance Chris] Sinckler, what has happened is clear evidence of the catastrophic failure of his policies. A few weeks ago he was speaking about a $600 million stimulus and the same person cannot now preside over a $450 million cut. So to my mind this is not now merely a case of two men who have lost moral authority and credibility.

“The most important thing now is the restoration of confidence and we have to go ahead with calm assurance and good order that we can manage this situation; and the creation of that climate is what we need economic leadership for.”

The veteran MP, who was minister of finance for 14 years added: “It would appear to me now that a $450 million cut will throw this country into cardiac arrest, so if there is an adjustment that has to be made, let us sit down and conduct a proper assessment.

“But it seems that all Government’s policies now are just a series of desperate leaps in the dark… That is no way to run an economy. This is now time for economic leadership of someone other than Sinckler of Worrell, who have lost all authority and credibility to take us forward.

According to Arthur, who will next week be in the Bahamas speaking to the business community ahead of the implementation of a Value Added Tax system there, three years ago he advised the Government of the need to set up, and be guided by, the advice of a panel of technical experts, but they refused to listen.

Now, he noted, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States had done just that — put together a regional public expenditure review commission with the best minds in the OECS and central bank now has a comprehensive report on how to address the issue.

“We could have had that three years ago!” Arthur said.

“We have a tradition in this country where people with the authority of prime minister have given leadership to the economy. I occupied that position for 14 years and when you bring the prestige of the office of prime minister to the management of our economic affairs it matters.

“That is why I did it, that is why Tom Adams did it, that is why Bernard St. John did it, that is why Erskine Sandiford did it, that is why David Thompson did it. It needs that authority and the Prime Minister can surround himself with the kind of people who will enable him to get the work done. Somebody needs to take charge of our affairs.” roymorris@barbadostoday.bb

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