EDITORIAL: It’ll still be our home
The Estimates debate is an annual one of great importance to all of us, but many Barbadians see it as no more than a talk shop in which the politicians get to say their pieces after the two major speeches.
It is much more than this; and greater national attention must be paid to this exercise, which is mandated by our Constitution, because it touches and concerns us all.
The people’s right to know what is being done with the taxes collected as a necessity by government is of paramount consideration, and the speech by the Minister of Finance and the reply by the Leader of the Opposition ought to be required reading by the general population. So too should be that of Minister of Agriculture David Estwick.
The Estimates are the schedule to the Appropriation Bill and that ought to alert us to the fact that it is the bill which when passed gives the Government the right to appropriate the several sums mentioned for the services of the island for the upcoming year.
Barbadians must therefore pay heed to the message from Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler that the road ahead is not easy and that the international environment is unfriendly and we are an open economy subject to circumstances over which we have no control whatsoever.
His is a daunting task, made the more poignant by the circumstances that have led him to be successor Minister of Finance to the late David Thompson.
We understand the general policy imperatives that are at the foundation of Democratic Labour Party policy that is capsulized in the view that it is building a society and not only an economy.
But it is clear now that attention has to be paid to what might be called economic fundamentals. That is the clear message, we think, of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
In a democracy such as ours, we have the benefit of the two views of the opposing parties, and while Mr Sinckler’s speech focused more on the Government’s approach to keeping the ship of state on an even keel, the burden of Mr Arthur’s presentation related to how he thought that better attention to core economic principles might help the economy to grow out of some of our problems.
Indeed his view seems to be that we might have avoided the more deleterious impact of the international recession had this been done before.
There is much food for thought in the debate, and particularly in the two lead speeches. And at the core of the debate is the realization that we are facing great difficulties which require careful thought and action.
In our adversarial type of politics, one party only has the right to implement its policies, but we urge the Government to pay due regard to those parts of the Opposition’s view which may be adopted for the improved fine-tuning of the economy.
Issues such as the OECD’s attack on our international business sector and the matter of accessing the development cooperation provisions of the EPA are but two such areas where this adoption might well take place.
In the meantime, we urge all Barbadians to pull together in the national interest at this critical time because whenever the talking is done, this island is the still place we call home.