When things seem to add up no longer
Many things in this country, it seems, are no longer adding up.
And today, we call on our Prime Minister to put aside all “bluster, blackmail and bullying” talk and to lead the way in clearing up our very serious misgivings about the future of our country and, in particular, our economy.
For it matters not to us who is responsible for the current industrial malaise that has beset our society; or which union is employing “choke and rob” tactics in its dispute with the Government; or even if the National Union of Public Workers and the Barbados Workers’ Union are guilty of pouring “new wine” into “old wine skins”.
It really matters not!
We simply want to know how do you intend to take our beloved country forward –– a country which in the not too distant past has been known to box above its weight in international circles; where petty crimes were outside the norm of our daily existence; so too smelly piles of garbage strewn from street to street.
Equally, our electoral and other systems of administration were readily held up as models for others –– both inside and outside this region.
But, alas, this is no longer the case! In fact, our leader hardly speaks; and when he does, it is in such lofty terms that the average man struggles to make sense of the discourse and its relevance to him.
At the same time, our Social Partnership no longer works; and on the odd occasion that Government, employers and the unions see it fit to get together, as they did last week at the height of national tensions, it doesn’t really affect the price of milk.
Instead, the current drag persists. And as national productivity plummets, we have precious little to show for ourselves but conflicting “GDP numbers” and a ballooning deficit. Which brings us to the latest report card issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and why it differs so significantly in outlook from those issued by our Minister of Finance and our Barbados Central Bank Governor.
Who is lying and who is telling the truth?
If growth is coming in the way Messieurs Sinckler and Worrell suggest it is, then why is it that some directors within the IMF remain of the view that our circumstances are still “daunting”?
Didn’t Mr Sinckler tell us in the recent Budgetary Statement that our homegrown fiscal adjustment programme was working? So why is the IMF now suggesting that it is not?
In fact, if we are to take the Washington-based financial institution at its word, and we see no reason not to, it would seem that the current programme has failed, or at the very least come up short of expectations.
If not, why would the IMF still be calling on the Government to implement “a comprehensive reform programme that includes strong fiscal adjustment and structural reforms to foster growth and external and debt sustainability”?
Didn’t we already get our dose of bitter economic medicine in the form of a 19-month fiscal adjustment programme that has already led to over 3,000 lay-offs in the public sector, not to mention, the $200 million in new taxes just announced in the June 15 National Budget?
How much more “ambitious” can the Government get than that in terms of its adjustment efforts?
We note that the country’s overall deficit fell by about five per cent during fiscal year 2014/2015. And that the foreign reserves have stabilized somewhat at 14.1 weeks of cover; but there’s still a big problem in terms of the Government’s overall debt, which rose to 101 per cent of GDP at the end of March, 2015, up from 76 per cent of GDP in March, 2011.
Therefore, there can be no stressing enough the importance of reducing current spending and addressing the stock of Government arrears.
In its latest report issued last Friday, the IMF also called on the authorities to consider divesting some state assets in order to lower debt.
We would therefore welcome any light that you can shed, Prime Minister, on our economic well-being that would put us all at ease that the current policies of this Government, including its persistent borrowing from the Central Bank, are not to the detriment of that which we hold near and dear, including our fixed exchange rate.
We would also like to know what is the game plan, going forward, now that the unions have effectively scuttled any plan to retire workers early.
We the people who elected your Government want to know.
And if there is an “oil spring” coming, tell us that too, now that “the prophet” Lynford Scantlebury would have us believe he has been reading your hand.