OUR CARIBBEAN: No to Uncle Sam – putting Barbados first
Add the recent downgrading by Standard & Poor’s of Barbados’ credit rating to “junk bond” status to the disclosure earlier this week that President Barack Obama’s administration is pressuring the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to cease making low-interest loans to this nation.
The result would most likely have the impact of a double-whammy for the Barbadian people at this critical period.
With all the ongoing election speculations, as well as what Trinidadians call “robber talk”, there may be Barbadians who wrongly assume that the blame lies at the feet of the current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration. Wrong.
I assume that the political leader of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and former three-time Prime Minister, economist Owen Arthur, is astute enough not to fall victim to this kind of muddled thinking.
Truth is that before the Obama presidency, the United States was diligently working behind the scenes to influence the international financial institutions to cut small but vibrant economies like Barbados from their list of countries depending on favourable concessions for loans, including low interest in repayments.
My colleague Tony Best in reporting on Washington’s pressure on the IDB, quoted former Governor of the Barbados Central Bank, Winston Cox – Mr Arthur knows him well – as disclosing that the move by the Obama administration “did not come as a surprise. It had tried before and failed . . .”.
It would seem that this time around, success in “downgrading” Barbados from receiving low-interest loans for economic development could pave the way, according to Washington’s perspective, for a multiplicity of such initiatives by the IDB against other Caribbean and Latin American nations.
When the cumulative social and economic consequences of an S&P downgrade rating to “junk bond” status and the Washington-inspired pressures on the IDB, for a start, to cut Barbados loose from future low-interest loans are objectively analyzed, what seems a helpful relevant response would be a bipartisan approach by the Stuart-led Government and the Arthur-led parliamentary Opposition in challenging this kind of politicking by Uncle Sam.
Likewise, the leaders of the private sector and labour movement should consider coming forward with their own statements to emphasize why this policy should at least be immediately put on hold, pending structured dialogue – if not suspended or abandoned altogether.
This may be a good opportunity for the political parties to “put Barbados first” – instead of so much good ole-style “yardfowl” politicking. It may also be a development that merits an appropriate structured regional initiative by CARICOM at the level of the Heads of Governments.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.