Now or never

Ryan Straughn
Ryan Straughn

It is now or never for the Freundel Stuart Administration and the Barbados economy.

Barbados Economics Society President Ryan Straughn warned today that tomorrow would be the last time for Government to put its money where its mouth is, if not Barbados would find itself in an even more perilous state.

He spoke ahead of Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler’s delivery of his 2013 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals tomorrow in the House of Assembly.

Straughn told Barbados TODAY that he was more concerned that Government will “finally” take major steps to resolved its worrying fiscal problems than about the actual contents of Sinckler’s document.

As far as he saw it, Government’s credibility would be diminished if it did not announce a plan and implemented it “in earnest”. His advice was: “Don’t waste anymore time!”

And Barbados International Business Association President, Ryle Weekes, whose organisation was one of several stakeholder groups which met with the minister and submitted recommendations, said he hoped the Budget adopted a different approach, one that would focus the country on the specific things that everyone needed to do to makes things better rather than a rattling off of additional policies.

Additionally, Barbados Private Sector Association Chairman, John Williams, pointed to a series of recommendations his organisation had submitted to Government in the hope that they would hear something positive tomorrow afternoon at Parliament.

Straughn, who for the past several months has persistently called for Government to take action on its spending, said the time for talk was over and what was needed was for the current administration to do the things it should have done long ago.

“It really comes down to what they will do to expenditure. They have to absolutely address the expenditure side otherwise

we will find ourselves in a worse position,” he warned. to feel comfortable through knowing that the Government is

“I think what the country would need to see tomorrow is not just a plan that is outlined but a plan that will be implemented in earnest so that the Government will regain some level of credibility in terms of managing the public finances.

“They said in the past that they will cut expenditure but they never did. For me it is not really about tomorrow but what you are going to do and what you should have been doing all along.

“And it is not just the current account deficit but also issues surrounding debt, especially the level of interest payments going forward. A plan saying how they will deal with the debt and actually starting to deal with it is what is required,” he added. Straughn also said it was important for Sinckler and company to “provide some sense of certainty to the country, both business and households”.

“The fundamental thing is that in order for households and business to be able to plan and do new investment people need

taking the steps that are necessary in relation to expenditure. That will give people the confidence,” he noted.

“These are the things that we have been pressing for for some time and the truth is that there hasn’t been any movement on that front other than to shift a few expenditure onto the NIS, which is hardly cutting expenditure.

“They need to articulate a plan and anything other than that I don’t think they will do themselves any good. They will do the country an injustice because at this time the Government’s expenditure has to be reined in and it is not necessarily related only to public servants, but how business is done in general.”

BIBA’s Weekes told Barbados TODAY that while his organisation wanted specific things for the international business and financial services sector, he was more concerned about holistic improvements in the context of the entire society.

“There is less a need for changes that we will need in the Budget itself and more of a change in certain legislative and institutional issues like business facilitation and legislation drafting and marketing and promoting,” he said.

“We are obviously going to be keenly following the budget and seeing what’s included. We noted that there was the 10-point plan for tourism so we are eagerly looking forward to a 10-point plan for international business.

“But the Budget itself, if you step back and look at it broadly, will not just be about the detail but what is different about the approach. A number of recommendations have been made by all the stakeholders for years and what people now expect is a change in the approach and the way that we go about the business of running Barbados,” Weekes added.

The approach he wanted was one that was more proactive and demonstrated “a change for the better involving the public sector, private sector and unions”.

“The question is: Now that we are forced to step up … how will we react? I hope that we will be mature to know that everyone will be better off if we do this together,” he said.

When contacted, Williams said he would be commenting on the Budget once it was presented and referred us to a document of recommendations BPSA had submitted to the authorities, the contents of which he hoped would in some measure be a part of the Budget.

The private sector thinks the economic recovery play to be enunciated should focus on tackling the national debt, reducing the fiscal deficit, promoting investor confidence and encouraging growth, and improving productivity, service and innovation.

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