Time for all hands on deck
As Crop Over winds down, the economy continues to pose some challenging questions for our policymakers and technocrats, and the situation facing the Government must be giving cause for considerable concern. However, some things are becoming clear.
It is now conceded that growth is what is required to pull our country out of its present situation. It is equally common ground that inadequate growth has been our lot over the past five years and that some sort of stimulus is now required to attempt to put the ship of state back on the course to an even keel.
While it may fairly be said that the difficult economic platform is clear to any person of average intelligence, it is perhaps becoming clearer by the day that very painful and unpalatable remedies may be in the offing.
The very recent disclosure that this country is projected to have the second lowest growth rate in the region reminds us of what a tight box the Government is in as it tries to wriggle free from the ravages of the fiscal deficit in which it now finds itself. This report, from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Eastern Caribbean (commonly referred to as Eclac), amply demonstrates the straitjacket in which the Government finds itself. We call it a straitjacket because one of the major solutions touted within and without the island is that improved growth of the local economy may be the most efficacious way in which to improve our economic profile and to begin solving some of the problems unearthed by recent difficulties.
The forecast growth rate of 0.7 per cent, which betters only Jamaica (0.5 per cent) in the regional grouping which was studied, is said by the report to place us in a position in which “Barbados now faces the difficult task of implementing strategies to restart growth”. This is coupled with the other suggestion by the report that the evidence indicated it was becoming increasingly difficult to avoid job losses. We sincerely hope that this latter possibility does not materialize because we recall the pain and suffering experienced two decades ago when job losses followed within a short time also after an election.
We recall these earlier times simply because as difficult as the future may seem, the solution then was worked out in the national interest and with the active support of the Social Partnership. We anticipate that the Government must perforce draw on that example this time round. Hence our concern that some of the rumblings emerging from within the halls of at least one union speak of marching.
While we cannot tell the unions how to conduct their business, and while any union and its members may feel justified in marching, we must, all of us, keep our eyes on the prize of overcoming the present major problems which we face.
For its part, the Government needs to cultivate the support, tacit or active, of both the workers and their representatives as well as the support of business in pulling together in a cohesive force at this time.
The Government may be between a rock and a hard place – some say partly or wholly of its own making – but this is now the time for bailing the water out of the ship of state, less we perish on the rocks. The expression all hands on deck is therefore a serious call to our patriotism. We support it!