Old and new issues for 2013
IT WOULD BE GREAT if every problem from the old year would disappear on the advent of a new one. In that way, we would not have to deal with any unsettled matters from the year just gone.
In other words, we would start the New Year with a clean slate and genuine hope that life and living would be less problematic and that good times, if they are not yet rolling, may somehow begin.
If only this were possible, then we would not find ourselves continually battling issues that come to the fore one year and, like a virulent virus, stubbornly resist resolution despite intense efforts to solve them. Unfortunately, life is not that simple.
So as Barbadians prepare to salute the dawning of 2013, they are well aware that they will have to cope with the old problems and challenges they faced this year which, in some cases, are a hangover from earlier years.
Therefore, the issue of when there will be a resolution to the CLICO International Life Insurance and British American Insurance debacle, which has nearly 35 000 policyholders out of pocket, will still be a contentious matter. So, too, will be the payment to contractor Al Barrack, whose $34.5 million arbitrated settlement with interest against the National Housing Corporation in 2006 has now ballooned to more than $77 million owed.
Barrack’s matter also raises the vital issue of the rule of law and the Government’s tardiness in honouring a court ruling. This is a significant matter in a country that needs foreign investment to propel its development. For if investors have no confidence in getting justice though the courts rule in their favour, they will think twice about investing here.
Of the fresh matters for the New Year we know of, the holding of the general election is the most significant. Both political parties already have their slate of candidates and several of these were out in the various constituencies delivering food hampers, hosting children’s parties and giving gifts over the Christmas period. It is now up to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to name the date.
Although political pundits argue that Stuart can extend the time until May, drawing on extraordinary constitutional authority, it is doubtful he would delay that long.
Though the guessing game is on for the election date, what’s certain is that the myriad of economic challenges faced in 2012 seem set to worsen in 2013.
Already the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry has indicated that businesses will be laying off workers unless action is taken to stimulate the economy, among other measures.
Meanwhile, the trade unions representing public sector workers have already submitted proposals for salary and wage increases, with negotiations set to begin in earnest.
And all of these matters are taking place against the second downgrade in our credit rating into junk territory this year by an international credit rating agency, but this time with a negative outlook because of our “lukewarm economy” and weak economic prospects.
In all of this gloom, at least tourism – our main foreign exchange earner – appears to be shaping up to hold its own to at least 2011 levels. If it does, it will be the one bright spot we have.
All in all, 2013 promises to be a challenging year. As a people we need to be productive and seize opportunities wherever they present themselves, for only then can we lift ourselves from our present situation.