Outspoken Cabinet minister Dr David Estwick said today the Freundel Stuart administration was using the wrong medicine to cure the country’s worrying economic problems.
Estwick, who is the Minister of Agriculture and a former Minister of Economic Affairs, also said that while he understood the strategy being adopted by the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank, it was not going to achieve the desired goal of fixing a $1.4 billion current account deficit.
”So you can’t cut and tax out of that, which is the old budgetary tool, which is a classic IMF [International Monetary Fund] way of delivering it. I am not afraid to say what I have to say because I stand by my inferences and by my reasoning and my common sense. Where that leads me, it will lead me,” he asserted in an interview with Barbados TODAY.
The minister said instead of the Government focusing on cutting wages and salaries, it should be concentrating on addressing what, he argued, was a $10.9 billion debt service.
He informed this newspaper that he expected to present his alternative economic measures to Cabinet on Thursday, which he is confident would solve the problem.
”What I have to do now is to ask the Prime Minister to accede to a full power point presentation with the entire Cabinet . . . because all the members were not at the meeting yesterday. Once that happens, and the Cabinet is in agreement, then I am in a position, with the agreement of the Prime Minister, to come to the public and say, ‘Look, these are the things we think we can add and do, X,Y,Z. So what I was trying to do was to get a hearing, so they (Cabinet members) understand that these tools require supporting tools to achieve what I want to achieve; that is nationally economic development and growth.
“So it’s not a matter of, as some people were trying to suggest, of fighting against [Minister of Finance Chris] Sinckler,” Estwick asserted.
“You need to look at other things,” he added. “So that is really what I push for and it is the other things I will speak to fully, publicly, once I get the Cabinet concurrence and once I get the support of the other members and the Prime Minister.”
“But I am confident,” the minister declared, “that the measures are going to be measures that will stand on their own reasoning and as a result of that, will stand on their own inferences as to what conclusions will come from those particular measures.
“I am hoping that that happens [presentation of measures on Thursday to Cabinet]. Minister [ Donville] Inniss indicated to me he has spoken to the Prime Minister. I intend to speak with him today and ask him [Inniss] to facilitate . . . and he can do this as general secretary of the party and also as a minister; so that I can do a full power point presentation, and so to get the cabinet to appreciate what I am trying to suggest,” the former Minister of Economic Affairs told Barbados TODAY.
“You see, the fundamental point is this. You cannot tax and cut out of a current account deficit of $1.4 billion at the end of fiscal year 2013/14 by the old traditional methods. You cannot do it, if you don’t have concomitant growth going along the same time, so that you can absorb any of the public sector contractions by loss of jobs. We don’t have the growth strategy going, because the growth strategy is compromised by cost. And all that happens because of the high debt and the high fiscal deficit position. So we are in a vicious cycle,” suggested Estwick.
“The only way you can get out of that cycle, you have to use other tools to help you in that cycle. And the thesis really stems from medicine, how you treat patients.
“I can’t go to treat a patient and half treat. My job is to make you well. So whatever I do to you, at the end of the day, I must make sure that I have cured your particular illness.
“So I am simply saying this [Government’s strategy] is not going to cure the illness. It’s going to prolong the illness. That’s another problem. Let’s cure the illness. And these new tool are going to cure the illness.”
Responding to a perceived rift between himself and his Government following a statement last week where he warned he would soon speak out on publicly on his administration’s economic strategy, the Cabinet member said: “I am committed to Barbados. Barbados is my first responsibility. The tool through which I am executing that responsibility, is through the Democratic Labour Party.
“So therefore, my allegiance to the Democratic Labour Party will stay strong as long as I am confident that the Democratic Labour Party’s allegiance is to the development of this country, and particularly protecting its people and its resources. If the time comes that I believe strongly, that there is evidence that the opposite occurs, then I will leave the Democratic Labour Party.
“And if that time comes, I will make my determination as to my political future, whether I sit as an Independent or I go and join the Barbados Labour Party,” Estwick pointed out.