Barbados has to move on
Now that Barbados knows the severity of Prime Minister David Thompson’s illness, it’s time to tackle the nation’s serious financial problems.
That call to action came from Charlie Skeete, a retired senior economist at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.
He told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that in the wake of Thursday’s statement from Dr Richard Ishmael, the Prime Minister’s physician, that Thompson was suffering from pancreatic cancer, few Government officials in Bridgetown seemed willing to address the current financial crunch.
“This financial crisis didn’t begin yesterday or this week with the statement that the Prime Minister was [ill]. . . . We now know that the Prime Minister faces a long, difficult recovery period,” Skeete said from his home in Virginia, United States.
“But we also know, whether we choose to say it or not, that the country is going through some of its most difficult times in a very treacherous international economy and that prospects for recovery are at best uncertain,” said Skeete, a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance.
“Somehow or other the business of governing and decision-making has to go on. We cannot pretend about the illness of the Prime Minister. . . . Events will not wait for us.”
The issues he listed ranged from a gaping fiscal deficit, a high pile of debt and economic stagnation to increasing pressure on the nation’s foreign reserves.
“It bothers me that very few people in Barbados that I know of . . . seem willing to address this issue at this time,” he complained.
“It is out of deference to the Prime Minister’s health. That is fine as far as it goes. But I am worried about the governance of the country. I certainly don’t know how long the Prime Minister’s illness will last and we do not know how it will end.”
Skeete, an economic expert known in Washington circles for his forthrightness and analytical skills, was quick to express his profound regret over Thompson’s illness, describing his absence from the helm of Government as a “blow to Barbados” that was “most inopportune” at this time.
Earlier this year Senator Darcy Boyce, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, said Government would stick to its previously announced medium-term fiscal and development strategy to cut the fiscal deficit over the next five years and reduce public debt.