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THE HOYOS FILE: The hunt for growth

Patrick Hoyos

THE HOYOS FILE: The hunt for growth

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We have a curious state of affairs in our current Government: A virtual leader who is still trying to find his leader-of-the-pack voice, and a minister of finance who seems to be the real dealmaker.
Notice, I say seems, knowing full well that things may not be always what they seem.
However, the virtual leader, Mr Stuart, hides in plain sight from his public, choosing the cloistered luxury of a pre-taped interview with a journalist who for a long period was out of the hurly-burly of covering the issues. He delivers speeches that are functional but provide little or no spark to rally the country. He seems far more comfortable on home turf, extolling the virtues of his party.
In short, he seems only able to speak to the already converted.
On the other hand, we have the dynamic Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, who appears to be emerging as the real dealmaker of the administration, openly engaging the public with his ideas for developing the country while, of course, giving credit to the boss and the whole Cabinet for the direction in which he is taking them.
It may not be so, but it sure seems that way to me.
At some point, this may turn ugly and heads may roll, knowing how people are when the question of leadership comes up. But at least we are getting some action.
Mr Sinckler is doing all this in the face of an Opposition whose leader does have an outstanding track record at getting the country mobilised behind major projects and who is waiting in the wings should the electorate lose confidence in the present strange set-up and opt to return to what they had before.
We are therefore in a hunt for growth. Everything depends on it: the survival of the current administration into a second term of office, the rebounding of the economy, the manageability of our longterm national debt, our international credit ratings, and the return of jobs to the local economy.
Mr Sinckler’s enthusiasm is impressive: He exudes confidence along with a deep knowledge of the Government’s finances (yes, you would expect this of a minister of finance, but it is reassuring to see it in reality), and is willing to concede basic points on finances where there is inevitably some cloudiness and some ball-parking, as will be the case in all estimates of revenue and expenditure.
Mr Sinckler openly admits that Government must get this economy growing and he is working on many plans and deals at the same time. If you think governments don’t have to negotiate deals with investors, think again. You don’t just sit in your office on Bay Street and have people come in and invest. It’s complicated.
But Mr Sinckler, like every other dealmaker for the country, will have to be transparent in his deals. If he is seen to be favouring one side over another it could hurt his chances, and those of the administration, because the very experienced Opposition leader will pounce.
The country is therefore well-served in a strange way by having experience in Opposition and enthusiasm in Government. That is not to deny Mr Sinckler kudos for his own prior experience in policymaking: I mean in actual governing and making decisions for which he is answerable in terms of millions of dollars or loans and financing arrangements for projects that are complex and could go into costly overruns.
Right now, the Government may have a lawsuit on its hands over the marina. These are the risks you take by making decisions and we the citizens and taxpayers have to hope that the correct ones were indeed taken.
Mr Sinckler, who was appointed finance minister just six months ago, in tragic circumstances from which the country is still slowly emerging, had to produce his first budget speech within a month, in which more taxes were raised, directly by the increase in VAT and indirectly by the removal of entertainment and travel allowances.
Since then, gasoline, electricity and some commodities have gone up.
The average wage-earner is reeling. For the first time in many years, I am hearing from people their fears of just trying to get by financially.
They are holding on but there will come a tipping point when “things fall apart” because “the centre cannot hold”.
Growth for the economy, which will be measured in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is therefore the only way forward, apart from cutbacks and price increases, which are probably reaching the peak level they to which they can go.
Mr Sinckler has a laundry list and if it all comes to pass this year that would possibly be the most impressive debut of any finance minister in the history of this country and it would no doubt ensure a comfortable victory for the Dems in the elections coming soon after.
At that point, it would probably make sense for Mr Sinckler to also become prime minister, as I am no longer so sure that a small country like ours can really separate the two functions, mainly because without having the purse strings in his control, the prime minister really hasn’t got much to do. But then, I know nothing of politics.