Much at stake this Budget
Sun, June 24, 2012 - 12:00 AM
With the Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals due for delivery on Tuesday, we anticipate that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler will be putting the finishing touches to what may turn out to be one of the most important Budgets of his tenure in that ministry.
The international economy notwithstanding, Barbadians may be hoping for some ease, and with an election around the corner, the temptation may be pressing for the minister to present an election Budget.
We are not blind to the political realities, nor to the frailty of human nature; but it is clear that the national economy may require “a shot in the arm” in order to stimulate the kind of activity that will translate into greater growth than is now being experienced.
The problem is that while this stimulation is necessary, it is the responsibility of the minister and the Government to ensure that the economy is properly stabilized and placed on a firm and sustainable growth path. Only then can the Government generate the kind of revenues to enable it to carry out those socially desirable programmes which make for a gentler society.
It must do so without simultaneously jeopardizing those economic fundamentals which are important benchmarks so carefully scrutinized by rating agencies, upon whose assessment the Government may be able to rely in support of any decisions that it may make, to engage in judicious borrowing.
The Government has been paying particular attention to its levels of expenditure and while we appreciate that a total view must be taken of the anticipated revenue in relation to expenditure, there will be some merit in adjusting policies regarding some of those expenditure areas in which transfers are made from the central revenues.
A critical concern which must merit more than the usual attention of the minister and industry stakeholders is the need to get the key sectors of the economy firing on as many cylinders as possible.
The challenges facing us in tourism have been highlighted by the collapse of one Almond property and the likely loss of 500 jobs. At the same time the effort to get Four Seasons restarted to provide some short- and long-term employment is perhaps not moving as quickly as all patriotic Barbadians would like.
And then there is the issue of the offshore sector which is confronted not only by the competition from our rivals, but also by the contrary efforts of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the anti-tax avoidance policies of metropolitan countries.
The problem will be to frame a mix of issues that will address these matters, and the Government seems to have decided ahead of the Budget to unfold a new immigration policy which is more user-friendly to inward investment than hitherto. The fact that we are now officially prepared to welcome wealthy net worth individuals is a step in the right direction, given our historically driven niche market in which such persons have always found our island a hospitable second home.
We await the Budget with the sense of anticipation, but times are difficult and challenging and we do not envy the Minister of Finance as he faces what is a most challenging set of circumstances.
Responsibility of a high order is called for in the national interest, and while the spotlight will be the more focused on the minister, the speakers for the Opposition must not only criticize the Government, but have a duty to be constructive; and in circumstances of this kind, they must tell the public how they would do it differently.
These are times that call for constructive engagement on the issues, and the public interest will not be served if politicking trumps everything else on this occasion. There is too much at stake.
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