Keeping funds for services
GOVERNMENT will maintain public health, education and transport subsidies, despite calls from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to tighten up overall spending in these tough economic times.
Minister of Economic Affairs, Dr David Estwick, gave this assurance yesterday, while pointing to free bus rides for schoolchildren, financial support for handicapped people, free health care and assistance for the Barbados Water Authority.
He told reporters that Government continued to resist suggestions to make significant cuts in expenditure in social areas but would move to reduce inefficiencies and wastage, thus saving money.
“We are not going to interfere with our social services allocations in such a way that it becomes disruptive to the social network of the country,” he said.
“Irrespective of what pressures are brought from the international community, that is our duty as a government and as a result of that it would mean that you would have to take your budgetary process and now cherry pick . . . and reorganise your budget in such a way that you pay special emphasis on your social safety nets.”
According to Estwick, the IMF was “always pushing for us to fiscally consolidate at a more rapid rate than we are comfortable with”.
Where the IMF and Barbados differ is “on the rate of consolidation and the magnitude of certain types of adjustment that they would want introduced”, he reported.
“Where the IMF speaks to transfers and subsidy cuts, what we are saying to the IMF is this: Where there is wastage, we will cut it out. Where there is inefficiency, we will deal with that. But that is as far as we can go.”
He added that Government had a strategy to bring down its debt and the deficit and to tackle other problems.
“Whether we move at snail’s pace or at Ferrari’s pace . . . will be based upon whether or net we believe, as the policy-makers, that there will be disruption to Barbados’ social landscape – and we are not going to [cause] that,” he pointed out.
But Barbadians need to appreciate that “Government cannot subsidise everything”, he commented.
Estwick made the comments after launching the national Economic Early Warning System at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre yesterday. (TY)