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EVERYTHING BUT: Almighty wrong . . .

EVERYTHING BUT: Almighty wrong . . .

By Ridley Greene | Wed, October 31, 2012 - 12:00 AM

I would have thought basically, because I’m just a dumb lawyer . . . that if the Barbados currency gets cheaper, you would be attracting more tourists and you would be getting more currencies. – An argumentative Madame Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, to Barbados Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell at the recent IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Japan.

A dumb attorney Christine Lagarde may not be; but a condescending and offensive International Monetary Fund boss, definitely. And she seems crassly unprepared to learn anything new from our daring Central Bank Governor.

Dr DeLisle Worrell’s position is not any we have not seen before. It is just he is one of the very few to tell the IMF upfront that its advisers are sorely mistaken and misguided.

Truth be told, it was time somebody told the bullying IMF where to get off.

And Dr Worrell’s proclamation is worthy of repeat.

We persistently and consistently get bad advice from the IMF. I have worked in central banks for over almost 40 years, so I have known the IMF through many different iterations, and I worked for the Fund for ten years, and we have consistently got bad advice on our policy options because the model is wrong, and we need to change that if you are to be helpful to us.

The Government, whatever the Opposition may find to throw at it, has been working hard at escaping the grips of the global economic crisis – which neither the IMF nor any of these international rating agencies saw coming – and which Barbados could hardly be blamed for.

And so the vulnerable economies like ours have been sandwiched between the IMF’s obsession with devaluation, plus austerity cuts, and the rating agencies’ brandishing of threats of more and more downgrading.

With all this, it ought to be insisted that we should not be unduly driven by any advice these Big Brother agencies offer.

It ought to be stressed too that there is nothing that says their economists and analysts are better than ours right here in Barbados. Why would they be superior thinkers to Dr DeLisle Worrell himself, Tennyson Beckles, Andrew Downes, Ryan Straughn, Dr Winston Moore, Anthony Johnson, or Clyde Mascoll and Owen Arthur – when they are not being partisanly adversarial?

Mr Arthur himself has time and again reminded us all that we should really not be intimidated by these international bigwigs. That we must not allow the fear of what institutions like the IMF might or might not say “to cause us not to do what we know we have to do”.

That is why it is a little disappointing that rather than give his fellow countryman some kudos for his valid and valorous stand against the almighty IMF, Mr Arthur chooses to play the tongue-lashing partisan game, with tongue-twisting disaster.

What “IMF model” exactly is it that Dr Worrell presented to the Barbados people as right, but argued with Madame Lagarde was wrong? Raising taxes and fees and containing salary increases are not necessarily of the IMF; otherwise Mr Arthur would stand condemned as being of the IMF discipleship himself.

Did the former Prime Minister for the benefit of the cultural sector, or the cultural industries, as he liked to call it, not introduce a fuel levy – like greased lightning and with the sound of silence – that when it was eventually realized it earned the moniker “the secret tax”?

I am not knocking the tax in essence; I am making the point you can have good reason for a tax – if it is in the country’s interest.

I acknowledge this is the silly season; but there can be little political point in Mr Arthur’s making a negative out of Dr Worrell’s show of guts, a rare commodity these days, not counting common sense.

This is no issue to be politicking over. We are all in the same circumstance, in the same boat, on the same rough sea at risk of drowning.

Across the political divide we must come to understand that it is not so much that the demands of the IMF are parlous because they are a one-fits-all, but rather that they are perilous because we feign to be divided over them.

• Ridley Greene is a Caribbean multi-award-winning journalist.

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