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PM plays the retro blame game


PAT HOYOS

PM plays the retro blame game

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“Admiral Dolittle” sailed his bark back into port last week to put inan appearance at a formal presentation on the state of the economy. He found it so bad that blaming the global recession was no longer enough. He hadto blame “Yesterday’s Man” too.
Governor of the Central Bank, Dr DeLisle Worrell, told Barbados Today’s Emmanuel Joseph: “What has happened is, inthe first six months of the year, the amount of foreign exchange that has been coming in is significantly lessthan was expected.”
As Barbados’ premier economic thinker, former prime minister Owen Arthur said during the recent election campaign that you have to grow your domestic economy first before you can earn foreign exchange. In other words, to take off you have to accelerate closer to the fiscal cliff, since domestic trade also consumes foreign exchange.
So what to do? Dr Worrell saysthe private sector will have to leadan investment drive to bring in over$2 billion over the next few years. Thatwill not happen unless major changes are made, as outlined by head of the Barbados Private Sector Agency John Williams, in his presentation (WEEKEND NATION, June 28,Page 28).
In the meantime, Prime Minister Stuart says everyone will have to make sacrifices due to the “serious problemsof debt and deficit” facing Barbados’ economy. He put the deficit reduction figure at $400 million.
But he was not yet in any hurry. According Geralyn Edward’s report on Page 3, the Prime Minister said: “While there is time we want to consult as broadly and widely as possible (so) that we can crystallize a national consensus on the way forward and get the buy-in for the decisions taken and thesacrifices that will have to be made.”
The only way to make such deepcuts in your budget without completely shutting down the provision of thegoods or services involved would be to hand them over to the private sector, creating new markets which will bepaid for directly by the consumer,even if on a phased-in basis.
Or, let me say it in one word: privatization.
Perhaps realising that whatever menu of options his administration selects would be ripped from the pages of the Barbados Labour Party’s election campaign manifesto, “Admiral Dolittle” has apparently decided that the problems we face are no longer caused solely by the global recession, meltdown, downturn, crisis and panic that beganin 2008.
It was all the fault of “Yesterday’s Man” who, he told Barbados Today, wasted time while in office metaphorically playing Snakes & Ladders with the Barbados economy when he should have been fixing it. Whatever that means.
Playing a retro blame game may make it easier for Prime MinisterStuart to finally face up to the stark reality of the economic condition ofthe country, but it is now irrelevant.
If he felt that way, he should have held all of these public/private sector meetings when he took over the officeof prime minister in October 2010 and come to the country with a national plan, since the cuts that now have tobe made have been weighing down the budget for years.
Had he done that in 2010 or even 2011, he could then have said: “Look, they wouldn’t do it, but we have to in order to save the economy.”
Instead, he allowed his minister of finance, perhaps influenced by a central bank governor, to impose increasingly harsh measures on individuals, households and businesses.
The harsh Democratic Labour Party economic doctrine produced one good revenue year (2011) when the measures brought in more money. But there was no talk of cutting out that $400 million then. But the well began to run dry. In 2012, the consumers and businesses went on a go-slow. The result was a stagnant domestic economy whereGDP simply would not grow and where government revenues, despite all of the increases in taxes, actually fell significantly.
With the final cushion – the domestic economy – removed, and nothing being done to stimulate investment in our top foreign exchange earners, the economy began its inevitable decline. Its brakes are now on.
You can hear them screeching in the collective moans, cries, howls and sighs the length and breadth of the island. Every man, woman and child, as wellas business and organization, has been hurt by the cold and heartless policies pursued by a Government that portrays itself as the friend of the people while thrusting its economic knife into their tender underbellies.
The “Admiral” is right to be worried. His ship is sinking, even as the voice of “Yesterday’s Man” begins to reverberate louder and louder.
• Pat Hoyos is  a publisher and business writer. Email [email protected]

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