BARBADIANS WILL BE FORCED TO ENDURE 19 months of pain, restraint, public sector hiring freezes and possible job cuts. These measures will be instituted while Government tries to spur the key foreign exchange-earning sectors with incentives for growth to turn around the struggling economy. Burdened by nearly six years of little to no growth in a battered international economy, quickly depleting foreign reserves which could drop to 12 weeks of imports by year-end, and declining foreign exchange, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler yesterday stressed just how close to crisis the economy had sunk. In his three-hour long 2013 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals from the House of Assembly, Sinckler launched Government’s self-imposed austerity programme, belling the cat that critics accused the administration of refusing to touch. He outlined policies to plug a $400 million deficit and in the process Government is tightening the screws on almost every dollar it was spending. The most critical action he announced was a roll back on the much vaunted free university education.