Straughn accuses Govt of ‘cooking’ the books
Why hasn’t the Central Bank already released its report on the 2016 first quarter performance of the Barbados economy?
Former Central Bank employee and Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate Ryan Straughn has advanced a possible explanation.
Addressing a meeting of the BLP’s St Michael West constituency branch on Sunday evening, Straughn charged that Government was adjusting its figures to suit an International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic projection.
The Central Bank’s first quarter report is usually released in April. It was issued on April 14 last year. Last week, the IMF issued a forecast of 2.1 per cent economic growth for Barbados in 2016. Prior to that, however, Government had put the 2016 expansion figure at 1.8 per cent.
Straughn reckoned that Government was not publicly embracing the IMF’s more optimistic forecast because last year it had dissed the Fund’s 2015 projection which was lower than the Government’s.
Therefore, it cannot be seen as accepting the IMF’s forecast this year, contended Straughn who will be challenging Minister of Education Ronald Jones for the Christ Church East Central seat in the next general election.
“Right now, what I am assessing is the reason that the information hasn’t been released is that they are still down there cooking the numbers a little bit, to make sure that they come close to what the IMF is suggesting growth should be,” Straughn charged.
“The Government right now finds itself in a situation where it doesn’t want to hold on to the IMF forecast, because they said last year that they [IMF] didn’t know what is going on,” he added.
Against a Government projection of 1.5 to two per cent growth last year, the IMF had said Barbados’ economy would only grow by 0.8 per cent.
However, as it turned out, the country achieved 0.5 per cent growth in 2015.
“They pretty much rubbished the IMF forecast of 0.8 per cent last year,” Straughn pointed out. “So nobody [in Government] is going to tell you, ‘I am confident in the IMF forecast [for 2016]’, because you can’t be confident this year, but last year you said it was rubbish.”
Reacting to the IMF forecast last week, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had said: “I don’t worry my head about those things because those are forecasts … the actual work has to be done to create growth”.
However, Straughn said the creation of that growth had not begun. He said Sunday evening that with the economy into the second quarter, there already should have been evidence of expansion.
Noting that April has almost ended, the economist said: “Even though the IMF has said growth is going to be two per cent, I am a lot more circumspect because I am not seeing the nuts and bolts to add up to two per cent at the end of the year”. (GA)