EDITORIAL: Climate of uncertainty not good for country
Ever since the last Budget, when we expected to see a greater degree of certainty in the implementation of the declared policy, we have witnessed a scenario which has been described by one public figure as akin to taking “a series of uncoordinated leaps in the dark”. It is not given to us to adopt the mouthings of any politician, but the impression so described appears to be gaining ground.
The statement by Minister Donville Inniss that he is not in favour of introducing an economic citizenship programme to this country, if correctly reported, is deeply disturbing to alert and thinking Barbadians.
Here is the Minister of International Business declaring publicly that he is not in favour of policy initiatives which impact directly on his ministry. The minister is entitled to his views, but serious business planners will wonder at the lack of policy certainty which this kind of development suggests. The Income Tax amendments and the municipal tax “error” also fuel this climate of uncertainty.
The Prime Minister’s recent intervention on temporary workers is already well known; and we sincerely hope that as a result, fewer workers, or perhaps no workers, will now lose their jobs temporary or otherwise. But on what basis was that area of policy built if the correct information is only now coming through?
As we plough our way through the current economic times, business and Government must work hand in glove in order for the economy to grow, earn foreign exchange, generate employment, pay profits on its taxes and generally to improve the lot of all our people.
There will always be those who will allow the entrepreneurial spirit within them to drive them into establishing businesses even in the most difficult of times. It is important to the society generally that we have these people, usually small business people, who are prepared to try to benefit themselves and the society in this way.
Such business enterprisers cannot dictate the policy playing field on which they must try to earn their hand. That is the dictate of the politicians, and the most that entrepreneurs can do is to seek to influence the shape of the policy as it is being created. Thereafter they must operate within the parameters of the policy when it is declared.
The one quality required in these circumstances on the part of the policymakers is a clearly defined and certain road map along which we are asked to travel, guided by the assurance of light at the end of the tunnel. But a climate of uncertainty is not good for business, as Mr Lalu Vaswani, president of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry, recently said: “A climate of uncertainty further adds to the decline of confidence levels for foreign and local investors.
“As said previously, our economy is measured by a floating currency called confidence. It is the highway upon which the vehicle of investment must of necessity travel. However, just as vehicles cannot travel on unsafe roads, investment will not flow in a climate of uncertainty.”
The last Budget was a policy statement widely expected to set the stage for a truly national effort on all sides – Government, business and the people – to pull together to lift our country above the perils of the recession. A climate of uncertainty is the last thing we need.