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DLP COLUMN: On the right track

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

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The recent comments by Standard & Poor’s point to the fact that we are doing the right thing. The approach through the Medium Term Fiscal Strategy has allowed for the Democratic Labour Party’s administration to have an agenda. This agenda and disciplined approach has seen the state reduce spending along its targeted lines.
The Governor of the Central Bank recently acknowledged the fiscal deficit had fallen from 9.6 per cent of GDP last year to 5.3 per cent. This clearly underscores the point that the policymakers are digging in.  
The Stuart-led DLP takes great offence at the notion that the state must retreat in its efforts to build a strong social safety net. Recent comments attributed to the leader of the Barbados Labour Party border on suggesting tinkering with our social policy agenda. Arthur opined that the underlying problem is that Barbados public spending is too large.  
“We have a large social sector that has become too heavy a burden for the economy to carry” – Arthur’s reference to the social sector should be of concern to all right-thinking Barbadians. After all, it was under the Arthur regime that for the first time in the history of Barbados the former Government took credit for the creation of a new class of persons called the “working poor”.  
During times of plenty, when as a country we should have been stockpiling for the drought, we witnessed an unbridled, runaway spending. All of this nocturnal activity was kept from the full view of the public by classifying it as off the books.
When we came to office, we brought onto the books the expenditure on the Coast Guard headquarters, the Dodds Prison, the Judicial Centre and the highway expansion project. These totalled close to a billion dollars in Government’s expenditure. This is an expenditure train that will be running for some time in the future beyond this current generation.
Maybe Arthur could recommend how we fund the National Housing Corporation’s debt-ridden Warrens structure.
This approach to recording state expenditure was what the Opposition defined as restructuring the economy. Arthur further went on to say that “the incremental resources available to the current administration had not been used to finance transformation but were being used for political gain”.
Oh, please!
A country in the grip of a recession that offers to strengthen its social safety net without regard to political persuasion has been branded by the Opposition as seeking cheap political mileage.
We challenge the Opposition – if the people of this country should fall asleep and re-elect them – to abolish free bus fare, dismantle the free summer camps programme and scrap the approach to deepening democracy by squashing the Constituency Councils.  
We take very seriously state-society relations and we have given expression and will continue to attend to this matter. We will not apologize for making people our priority.
The policy prescriptions as touted by the external agencies always come from a blueprint which speaks in the strong language of There Is No Alternative [TINA].
The DLP has never subscribed to the call of the wild, where we must take a position of retreat as the state. We have never and will never.
This attention paid to state-society relations have allowed us to reaffirm the state’s legitimacy in designing a development agenda with people at the centre.
The Barbados Labour Party’s three-term market-driven policy is the reason we are where we are today. However, this Democratic Labour Party is in control and we are charting pathways to progress.