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DLP COLUMN: At what Price­?


BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

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“Barbados’ credit rating is not in any further danger of another downgrade.”  
This view was expressed by the governor of the Central Bank recently as he reviewed the Barbados economy for the first nine months of the year. The measures as outlined in the Government’s fiscal medium-term fiscal strategy have acted as a compass to help navigate the economic landmines.
The governor’s acknowledgment that the fiscal deficit had fallen from 9.6 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 5.3 per cent clearly underscores the point that policy-makers are digging in. This reduction is a direct reflection of Government’s stated intention to reduce spending.
Tourism, our economic driver, is also beginning to feel the pinch. There has been public acknowledgement that despite an increase in tourist arrivals, we have experienced a decline in spending and stay.
Despite the sluggish economic activity around the globe, this Government remains committed to the parity of the dollar and a policy agenda that will enable growth of the economy.
These achievements do not qualify as a measure of fiscal consolidation and prudence for critics of the Government. When the fiscal deficit was over nine per cent, that was the flavour of the month. Pundits are now setting fire under an International Monetary Fund report.
This Government has always had a mind of its own and foremost is the protection of the poor, the vulnerable, and the strengthening of the social safety net. It is with even greater interest that, at any Price, commentators have been able to use print and electronic media to give the public the opinion that something dark is amidst.
We have all seen the published statement from John Williams, the head of the Barbados Private Sector Association, and we thank him for buying into the concept of Team Barbados. In speaking about working together to  return the country to efficiency and offering greater service, he said: “Together we can chart a path for growth.”
But this mantra may have been lost on some in the media and commentators who, at any Price, have sought to confuse the public about the economic indicators. However, we on this side know different and have already been briefed.
There can be no doubt that this country is holding together through the spirited cooperation of the Social Partners. The unions and businesses have followed suit and are exercising great restraint with layoffs.  
The intervention by the state to keep capital projects going has acted as a small-island stimulus package. The efforts by the private sector must be lauded as it too has made tremendous sacrifices.  
The media somehow seems to identify with a different Team Barbados. The public was recently exposed to  comments in an article attributed to Sanka Price: “What we do know is that it is now incumbent on him [PM Stuart] and his administration to take the hard decisions needed to save this country’s fortunes from sinking further, and threatening the quality lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.”
Is he saying to protect the rich and famous? Is the author of the article asking the state to begin laying off public sector workers? Is the commentator asking the state to charge for education or cut spending on health care? Is he suggesting a wage freeze in both private and public sector? Of course, the question has to be asked: at what Price? 

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