Where do we go from here?
This week I was planning to ‘leggo’ some lashes in the child fathers that think using the weekends their children spend with them as a time to poison children against their mothers is a worthwhile and good idea. I was going to chastise them for their insensitivity and sheer disrespect for the hard job – that should take two adults – which a woman faces, to raise a child by herself.
And then Shylock called for his pound of flesh and there were heavy rumblings around the capital of Barbados and the entire country was plunged into high political theatre. It was not that I lost the ability to walk and chew gum, as I usually chastise my readers for doing. I could still deal with child fathers and the political drama. I chose not to though. I wanted only to walk, forget the gum! I made the decision because I am no longer sure I could afford the stick of gum and opted not to buy it. So, let us stick to the drama!
If you hear a senior spokesman in a ruling Government talk, you usually assume that you have heard the policy position of said Government unless the spokesman issues a disclaimer that he is voicing his personal opinion. So let me try to think aloud here and see if I can tie up some related, unrelated ends.
A spokesman for the ruling Democratic Labour Party Government indicated the other day that the Barbados dollar could not be devalued as it had no value. The next thing in the sequence that happened was that the Governor of the Central Bank had an Economic Forum. The Economic Forum replaced opportunity for mass engagement after the Governor’s haughty dismissal of interacting with the media.
At the forum, the Governor was clearly at pains to point out that he could not just keep facilitating Government’s deficit by the printing of money. Given the statements made just a few days before by the senior Government official, it was clear that the Governor of the Central Bank used his Economic Forum to break policy with the Government of the day as well as to send a warning shot across Barbados for those who had ears to hear.
For anybody who has read any kind of drama in school, the final act in the sequence of events was not hard to comprehend. The Governor’s Board suddenly realized they were unhappy with his management style and there was an attempt to part ways by the parties involved.
Right. So that was the sequence of events. Here are the takeaways for me. My son, who is six and in Infants A, understands that any system of bartering must have underlying values in order to make it successful. A monetary system is a form of bartering. It is actually a sophisticated type of bartering that replaced item for item trade with item for equivalent value trade. Now, my six-year-old has worked out that if he wants a snow cone, he has to have one dollar. He has also worked out that taking the clothes to the laundry room and taking out the garbage will make mommy give him a dollar. So my child has learnt that the one dollar and this work will get him a snow cone.
How then have we not worked out as the adults that if we want to buy goods in American dollars and we transact sales in Barbadian dollars that we have to maintain a relationship between the amount of Barbadian dollars we spend and the amount of American dollars we need for external trade.
I do not think the position of the first Government official was a slip of the tongue position or a simple case of not understanding economics. I mean, my six-year-old gets it. I really think printing money as a stopgap for the deficit is an articulated and lived policy of the current Government and they do not seem to understand the relationship between it and the plunging foreign exchange reserves.
The reality is, though, if you keep introducing Barbadian dollars that have no real value into the monetary system and you keep buying goods in American dollars without increasing the ways you make American dollars (which you cannot just print) you will end up with a bottleneck at the point of overseas demand.
Do not tell me how low or high the morale is or is not at the Central Bank of Barbados. The Governor of the Central Bank is nothing he is today that he was not at his appointment, or reappointment for that matter. I am not interested in standing by and cheering for a pound of flesh without the fuller knowledge of the contract made and how much, if any, blood was to accompany the pound of flesh.
Our country is on the brink. Whether we choose to be active participants in the outcome now or the passive bystanders we prefer to be, an outcome is imminent. I do not wish to hear a single, ‘but wait, how we get hey?’. All of us know how we got here. The bigger question is, ‘where to from here?’
The real take away: Please, my fellow Barbadians, do not lose sight. The Governor of the Central Bank was quoted in the media as saying that he cannot tell the Minister of Finance ‘no’ on the printing of money because to do so means civil servants would not be paid. He did not say that people working in statutory boards would not be paid. He said civil servants would not be paid.
I do not ever want to incite panic in my nation. I would not. It serves no useful end. I just ask questions. That is all. They said that was the role of ‘media people’ in journalist school. My question is, if they cannot pay civil servants if they stop printing money and they need to stop printing money to preserve the peg of the dollar, what does that mean for you if you are employed by the Government? What does it mean for the dollar peg? What does it mean for Barbados?