On watch

Private sector complains that Stuart administration is on pause

Although Barbados has not been hit by any major hurricanes so far this Altantic season, the head of this country’s private sector today complained that the country was effectively on pause, with the Freundel Stuart administration seemingly on “hurricane watch”.

Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Charles Herbert levelled the charge while addressing the umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados’ (CTUSAB) Midterm Delegates’ Conference at Courtyard by Marriott.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Charles Herbert

He explained that it had been two months since the island’s major trade unions and over 20,000 of their constituent members joined with the BPSA in staging “the largest protest ever seen in Barbados” with a view to having meaningful economic dialogue with Government on averting a possible national financial crisis.

The demand came in the face of Government’s introduction of a $542 million tax package that was aimed at closing a $537 million fiscal deficit.

However, the Stuart administration has been under pressure from opposition parties, trade unions, the business community as well as ordinary residents to roll back an increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which moved from two per cent to ten per cent on July 1.

But while lamenting that no firm action had been taken since then, Herbert today warned that major disaster was indeed imminent, but not of the form that Barbadians were expecting.

“We huddle in small groups around our radios for the next update to see if ‘God is still a Bajan’ and the hurricane will once again turn north and spare Barbados from its worst.

“However, comrades, this financial hurricane is not an act of God, but is subject to our control through united action and intervention,” Herbert warned, adding that “we do not have to sit startled in the headlights until we are struck”.

The private sector spokesman recalled that Jamaica and Grenada faced similar crises over the past four to six years, but said unlike Barbados, their leaders had decided to act. As a result, he said both countries had reported progress and were able to raise hopes as a result of united and affirmative domestic action.

Herbert, who participated in this week’s Caribbean Leadership and Transformational Forum, which was hosted here by the Caribbean Development Bank, noted that the focus was on how aspirational policies could be translated into action and results.

At that meeting, Herbert said he was privileged to hear former Malaysia cabinet minister Dato Sri Idris Jala speak on how he assisted his government in turning policies into action, resulting in the creation of over two million new jobs, a dramatic reduction in poverty and expansion of private sector investment — all resulting in the gradual reduction of fiscal deficits and national debt.

Herbert also pointed out that Jala, who served as the chief executive officer of his country’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit from 2009 until 2015, had assisted several other countries in the implementation and delivery of their transformational policies while suggesting that Barbados could do with such expertise.

“Jala is in Barbados because his team is available to work with Barbados and other Caribbean nations that have the courage to embrace a call to action and transformation. I found Jala to be inspirational and his methods to be sound and proven. I hope that Barbados will seize this opportunity and embrace this call,” the business leader said.

He recalled that when Barbados faced a similar financial crisis in the early 1990s the Government of the day had collaborated with the social partners and averted a financial crisis, adding that the country went forward to enjoy a period of growth and prosperity.

However, comparing yesteryear and today, Herbert lamented that “the [current] Social Partnership so far has failed to find the cohesion that it did in the 1990s to unite the social partners in an agreed set of policies, designed to avert the crisis and set us back on a prosperous path”.

Just yesterday, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler suggested that Barbadians had a lot to be thankful for, not because God is a Bajan, but because they did not have to suffer the “sheer misery” others were experiencing as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria which have devastated several countries in the northern Caribbean leaving a trail of suffering and deaths.

At the same time, Sinckler defended his most recent tax package which was announced in his May 30 Budget.

In fact, he suggested that the taxes were necessary in order to provide services, including sanitation and public transportation, which is provided free of charge to students.

“Nobody likes to pay taxes. I don’t like to pay taxes myself, but I have to pay them because it is important for the development of the country,” he said in light of the NSRL hike, as well as increases in the excise duties on fuel, as well as a new two per cent tax on all foreign exchange transactions.

11 Responses to On watch

  1. John Everatt September 22, 2017 at 12:51 am

    I don’t think that this government is willing to listen to Mr. Jala or anyone else for that matter. The meeting with the business community 2 months ago turned out to be just window dressing to appease the people and make them think that they were listening. They certainly refused to listen to Owen Arthur as well as many economists who have tried to offer help. And they certainly will not listen to the IMF people. I guess they know everything so there is no need for them to listen.

  2. Tony Webster September 22, 2017 at 12:57 am

    Hari-Kari in slow -mo. But why? Perhaps so others will carry the blame for the unavoidable deal with Impending Menacing Forces? I dunno, but there must be an end-game for this rare form of political madness. Almost unbelievable that our country lies bleeding on the altar of procrastination and prevarication, topped off with a huge dollop of personal “pride” at the top.

    For sure, a new definition to “shambolic”… and if ever we needed eleven eager men…it is now!

  3. Waiting September 22, 2017 at 8:14 am

    John Everatt & Tony Webster are so right, that is exactly as it is with this Government and no one should ever think of sitting down with them or even telling them anything. Just pray that they don’t destroy the country in the time left, that is why I am so sorry that we didn’t have 4 year election periods for they would be out long time.

  4. Mark My Word September 22, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Massa gearing up and ready to take we back into slavery
    Dem done got de yard fowls and stool pigeons eating out thee palm of dem hand by way of the Trade Unions.

    • Jennifer September 22, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      And the playing field cannot be leveled either. Too much pop down and build up.

  5. Adrian Hinds September 22, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Herbert and the likes of him don’t have the usuall access to Freundel as they did with pass PM’s and that is why they are mad. Public sector Unions have a personal interest in getting better conditions for their government worker members but that interest is not the same as that of Herbert and crew. Having a Mottley in charge will serve the purpose of Herbert and crew first and foremost. I have no doubt that the economy will get better with a Mottley in charge as I have no doubt that it is as bad as it is because Herbert and crew have lost their access with Fruendel in charge.

  6. Carson C Cadogan September 22, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Nobody voted for CHARLES HERBERT at the last general elections.

    These Plantation class people want to run Barbados from their boardrooms. It is not going to happen.

    Barbados is in good hands with the Democratic Labour Party.

  7. Tony Webster September 22, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    @Adrian: drivel, Sir. First-class horse-effluent, of the lowest ( racial) denominator. At this time, we all need to put country first, not political interests. The private sector, ( major corporations, mid and small and micro businesses) will always be the engine of growth and prosperity, and including upward mobility.
    We also can see clearly , using the evidence of our eyes. Efforts to deflect or twist the widespread public disaffection this time around…well, good luck to you, Sir.

  8. Adrian Hinds September 22, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    LOL! Feundel said it best in a detail speech leading up to the 2008 general election. People like Herbert when in bed with a Mottley will set average Barbadians back in terms of being able play a more meaningful role in this economy. Bajans are tired of being assigned to the consuming class and the only way to achieve meaningful and sustain benefit is to have more of the consuming class refashioned into owners, business owners, owners of capital etc so that the Herberts and his ilk who currently have excessive control of our economy cannot reck havoc as they are currently doing to achieve their own personal political benefit. No more master client relationships. We leveling the economic playing field.

  9. Seaweed September 23, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Stuart is the most indecisive PM Barbados has ever seen. He is like a deer, frozen in the headlights, incapable of making a decision, all to the detriment of Barbados.

  10. MARIA Holder September 24, 2017 at 8:23 am

    You persons that are getting caught up in the 60s black power rhetoric better be careful. Last I checked, Maloney (half-scald but could pass for white) and Bjerkham, were not black business men

    Charles Herbert (half-scald too) but in all fairness it is obvious to him what is obvious to all – after 9 years there appears to have been no knowledge gained by these MPs. Not one department or Ministry has reaped any results to date.


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