A Sad Movie Barbados unfolds
Political scientist Peter Wickham said it right on the Brass Tacks radio programme today.
To paraphrase him, the way things are playing out in Barbados these days, it is sort of like watching “a movie”.
We go further to say, not an unfamiliar movie either, but a very sad movie – the type that makes you want to hold your head and bawl for murder because it is destroying your beloved island home.
However, as the drama unfolds – brutally and bloodily in some cases – the masses are made to feel powerless to stop the carnage and are only looking on in general despair.
Many are tempted to hide their faces and not view right through to the end. In frustration some have even turned off their television sets only to turn the corner and face a LIVE scene from the same exact sequel, sad and depressing as it all might be.
That’s why the latest Moody’s report on Barbados is by no means a surprise to us.
Indeed, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this island is headed down a very bad road economically. Several commentators have gone on record with the same negative prognosis, while imploring and agitating for the Government to focus on growth.
In its report yesterday, Moody’s did however fill in some of the blanks, and provided useful analysis of the current problems.
Take for instance the ongoing public sector retrenchment exercise, which we were all made to feel would be bitter medicine at the start, but would redound to our collective benefit in the short to medium term.
However, it was one of the areas of caution yesterday by Moody’s as it downgraded Barbados’ government bond rating by three notches to B3 from Ba3, while maintaining its negative outlook on the island.
In terms of the widening government deficit, Moody’s explained that the situation was driven by lower-than-expected revenues, linked to last year’s slight economic contraction.
And despite the recent efforts of the authorities, “expenditures remain high and rigid, particularly the public sector wage bill and transfers to loss-making public enterprises, and interest payments have increased significantly”.
Sounds to us like even more cuts will be needed in the near future as Moody’s suggests that “the authorities will be challenged to meet a deficit target of 6-7% of GDP in the current fiscal year, based on the fiscal adjustment measures, including widespread public sector layoffs, that have been implemented at this stage”.
Apart from the deficit, Moody’s has also voiced strong concern about high levels of domestic short-term borrowing and continued Central Bank financing of the fiscal deficit, which it says, will compromise authorities’ ability to preserve the Barbados currency peg to the US dollar.
Though the news is not good, we are not even sure that it should be viewed as a wake up call since the problem here is not one of a sleeping population, but owing to its conservative nature, one that is perhaps too accommodating and accepting sometimes, even in the face of glaring betrayal.
We have always taken pride as a people in our stability and orderliness. And in circumstances where others are known to rise up and take matters into their own hands, we simply bide our time, even if it takes three more years to be able to speak at the allotted time, in the comforts of a polling booth, with our “x”.
This is why our leading protagonists in Sad Movie Barbados are themselves such depressing characters:
On the one hand, the members of Government who continue to ask us to walk with them, despite numerous broken promises, half truths, deliberate and deafening silence at times, and waning confidence.
As Opposition Leader Mia Mottley rightly says the situation we face is best defined as “madness” and should be enough for us to urgently to sit up and take stock.
But equally jolting for us is the divisiveness and bitterness that continues to characterise key relationships within the political Opposition, as well as its failure to gain the necessary traction, despite several recent public intitiatives, adding to the grimness of our present state.
As a people, we therefore face the prospect of at least three more years of fracture and consternation at time when this country is in desperate need of a turn around.
Sad, sad movie indeed!