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The recently reported statements from Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss, that our country’s economic model is obsolete; from former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, that the era of the welfare state is fast coming to an end; and from the Prime Minister that the depletion of the foreign currency reserves is a result of Barbadians’ lavish lifestyles should make all Bajans sit up and take notice.
It is clear that the economic model which our country has followed over the last 50 years of ‘‘independence’’ is nearing the end of its life, and that Bajans will have to get involved in determining what will replace it. The approaching collapse of this model is also proof that turning it into a tourism and services economy, organised to meet the economic interests of the local elite and the foreign investors, is no way to build a sustainable economy for an independent country.
To claim that Bajans are living a lavish lifestyle is quite simply untrue. It may be true for the local millionaires and billionaires and the politicians attached to them, but it is definitely not true for most Bajans. So this cannot be the cause of the current economic difficulties. Nor can anyone in their right mind claim that Bajans have access to any excessive welfare state.
We don’t have an effectively functioning modern hospital. The chief executive officer of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital recently stated that there is a $45 million shortfall in the funding ofthe hospital.
The public transport system is struggling, with a recent claim that as few as 80 buses out of the fleet of 320 are able to be on the road on a daily basis; death grants take nearly a year to be received, and so on. So it’s disinformation to try to pin the cause of the crisis on the needs of ordinary Bajans, many of which go unmet.
According to the World Bank, the gross domestic product of our country in 2016 was $9.18 billion. That means that through our labour, the working people of Barbados created $9.18 billion worth of wealth. The Government took $2.7 billion or 29 per cent of it in taxes and the other $6.4 billion or 71 per cent was shared out between the workers and the owners of the various companies and businesses operating in Barbados. We know from experience that most of that didn’t go to the workers.
So the problem isn’t that we are not producing the wealth. The problem is that some people are pocketing most of it and then telling us that we don’t have money. For example, according to the Barbados Government Estimates for 2016-2017 which were tabled in Parliament on March 8, 2016, the gap between the Government revenues of $2.7 billion and its expenditure of $4.4 billion is $1.7 billion, and the amount we are paying on debt servicing is $1.5 billion.
So putting a moratorium on debt repayment would practically get rid of the fiscal deficit.
For too long, ordinary Bajans have allowed others to define our options for us and to do so in a way that benefits them and harms us. We have to intervene in this discussion to secure our interests. If our economy can’t provide us with the necessities of a modern life in 2017, after nearly 400 years of our blood and sweat building this country, then it certainly can’t afford to support millionaires and billionaires, can’t afford concessions to the foreign investors who are buying up our West Coast and can’t afford to pay $1.5 billion in debt repayment each year.
If the government hasn’t got enough money to get the Transport Board buses back on the road and running efficiently, it hasn’t got enough to be making payments to private interests as a result of contracting out of Government services. Barbados needs an economy which is geared towards meeting our people’s needs, with as many productive sectors as possible, including agriculture and manufacturing. We need research and development units to explore opportunities for diversifying and developing our economy. Measures are needed to bring unused agricultural land into production.
We need an investigation of the import sector so we can see if this is the cause of our excessively high cost of living. The tourism sector also needs to be investigated to find out what is happening to the wealth generated in this sector. Money collected by the Government to carry out its responsibilities to society has to be accounted for down to the last cent, and those caught with their hands in the till have to make a trip to Dodds.
Some of us mistakenly believe that we will solve our current economic problem by voting out Freundel Stuart and the Dems and putting the Barbados Labour Party in power, but unless Bajans organise and empower themselves to take hold of our country, the situation will only continue to get worse.
– TEE WHITE