EDITORIAL: Budgets, bailouts and disease
THE CURRENT FOCUS is on budgets, bailouts and disease. Is the Barbados economy in a fiscal crisis? The answer is most definitely yes. Is its economy at the edge of a precipice? Once again, yes but the economy is certainly not collapsing.
Bailout packages are in vogue in Europe. It’s now Ireland’s turn after Greece in an attempt to thwart bankruptcy. The crisis is nothing new but is irresistibly an offshoot of the prevailing recession and the almost total collapse of banks in Europe and the United States.
Both Ireland and Greece were able to attract significant assistance from generous international donors, and many in the same position elsewhere are no doubt keeping their fingers crossed; but they might not be so lucky as bailout fatigue may soon set in.
A staggering input of 80 to 90 billion euros to keep the once known Celtic Tiger going is no mean contribution, especially at a time when the continent is struggling with a crippling debt burden and slow growth.
Unfortunately, there has not been much enthusiasm to help our Caribbean neighbour, Haiti. There is death and disease all around there as cholera has reached epidemic proportions, having claimed more than one thousand lives and is far from over.
The most unfortunate aspect is that adequate measures are not yet in place to contain the contagious disease. Moreover, the state of civic amenities is deplorable, and there is urgency for water supplies, food and medicine on “war-footing” basis.
The response of the world community and donor agencies has been pathetic, which has furthered the sense of pessimism to a great extent. Despite the efforts by Jamaica in sending a medical team there, the Caribbean response has been lethargic to say the least.
As if disease has not been enough as a silent killer for the people of Haiti already ravaged by an earthquake, riots and lawlessness loom large, making life even more miserable. This has hampered rescue and humanitarian efforts aid agencies had been planning.
The situation becomes more complicated as the government seems to be hapless in countering this mess of human tragedy on its own, and for long has been relying on the interventionist efforts of external agencies. The rumour that peacekeepers had spread the cholera has not helped either.
Aid agency Oxfam’s complaint that violence has forced it to stop relief efforts is mind-boggling. Similarly, the United Nations claim that unscrupulous elements are encouraging violence to disrupt the forthcoming presidential elections is most disturbing.
The time has come when the international community cannot remain mere spectators any longer. This is not the time for more debates and conferences.
The immediate need is to come up with a robust plan to help Haiti as the epidemic is apolitical and all countries must chip in to save a dying nation before it is too late.