EDITORIAL: Wanted – debate to recovery
AS THE ST JOHN?by-election enters the home stretch, it seems clear that no matter what the political parties may try to determine as the relevant issues, the state of the economy raises its head as a major one facing this country and worthy of debate in the current campaign.
It is true much of the debate has centred on the issue of the St John Polyclinic and the question of what has and what has not been done for the parish of St John, but, as guardians of the public interest, we believe that a major aspect of the debate must touch on the state of the nation and what must be done to rehabilitate the economy, which has been dealt serious blows by the international recession.
The public interest cannot be concerned with the fate of either political party, except in the broader sense that we support the survival and growth of these parties as major planks in the establishment of our democracy.
And when it becomes clear, as it has, that unemployment is rising and that there is some evidence of excessive price charging by some merchants, or shopkeepers, or minimarts, then Barbadians must have a deliberate interest in hearing a proper debate between the two major parties on the ways to tackle the economic problems facing the nation. These problems cannot be easily ignored.
Earlier this week, Barbados Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell told us that two per cent growth was now projected for the economy in 2011. He also told us that the current account deficit had widened to 7.4 per cent of GDP in 2010 from 6.6 per cent in 2009, while the moving average inflation rate was estimated at 5.4 per cent compared with 4.4 per cent a year earlier.
We were not surprised, as the recent Central Bank release says that the last two years of economic contraction had made it difficult for employers not to lay off workers even in the face of Government incentives designed to alleviate the pressure of employees’ benefits on cash flows. Each layoff brings in its train hardship and personal pain at the individual level, since many mouths are often fed from a single pay packet; hence there is need for some hope if those affected are to be asked to hold strain.
Neither political party must rest on its laurels. Both sides have made their contributions in the past to the national well-being, and while it may be tempting to rely on past performance only, this situation calls for newly tailored, even if generally outlined proposals to lift us out of the morass into which we are in danger of slipping.
We want to hear proposals that safeguard and create jobs, while stimulating local confidence in the minds of investors both local and foreign, and that provide for the continued development of the tourism industry in a way that allows local culture and mores to fertilize the tourism product so our tourists enjoy an experience that makes them want to return.
This cannot be the time for eye-catching duty-free concessions on motor vehicles for members of the public service, or for tax giveaways, or for the enlargement of social programmes, however desirable, if they may well become a permanent charge on the public purse.
Rather this is a time for the most careful but economically constructive policies and programmes that will deal with the economic challenges we are facing, while maintaining in the best possible shape those pillars of the economy that help us to maintain our standard of living.
Events in the past year have conduced to some loss of valuable time and we must now move at all deliberate speed in ensuring that informed public debate emerging from the St John campaign lights a clear path to recovery.