Government cautioned about IMF plan
Government has been put on notice that recommendations put forward by the International Monetary Fund won’t work in Barbados without first obtaining national consensus.
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur issued the caution on the heels of a visit by an IMF team, which concluded that the economy continues to face major challenges, including low growth, a very large fiscal deficit and a high debt burden.
Speaking at a Barbados Labour Party meeting last night at the Alma Parris Memorial Secondary School, Arthur said the IMF should not leave behind a report that it expects Barbadians to comply with.
“What is being contemplated is not just a fiscal adjustment, but what could at the end of the day amount to an assault on the very infrastructure and social foundations on which the stability and the progress of Barbados has been based. This Freundel, this Sinckler is too big a matter to be handled by a group of people from the International Monetary Fund coming here and giving us technical assistance. This requires a greater conversation between the Government and the governed and we need to have it now,” the former leader said.
“Having an adjustment of the kind being proposed is not a numbers game. It is not an exercise just in cutting and chopping. It will forever change the nature of the society.”
Arthur is again recommending that a task force be set up comprising the best minds in the country to devise a programme to deal with the deficit.
In the meantime, he has made several other proposals to help boost the economy.
“If people are asked to pay for their children’s education, give them an incentive to save for that education if they’re paying taxes and those who have to pay for medication should be given a health care allowance to offset the costs,” he suggested.
The St Peter MP described as ‘folly’, talk that Government intends to build a new hospital, pointing to the state of the country’s finances.
Instead, he insists that an arrangement be put in place, “where the private sector can come in and fill the void that the Government cannot now fill and give an incentive for the private sector to do it. And the Government then can buy access in the new hospital for services that the Government itself cannot provide.”
On another issue, Arthur said he does not believe that the private sector is doing enough to spur economic growth in the country.
“Why can’t the private sector meet among itself and come up with schemes that will enable people who have ideas but don’t have the financial resources to be able to have access to credit on new terms to enable them to be part of their own solution. Is that too difficult and are we hearing these things from the private sector?” he queried.
At the same time, the BLP politician said Government needs to level the playing field and reverse policies that have deprived tourism-dependent businesses of their ability to make returns.