OUR CARIBBEAN: Jamaica’s new vibes as Barbados faces a tough period . . .
In sharply contrasting national moods, while Barbadians are currently agonizing over widening social and economic challenges – including rising unemployment, escalating food prices and the general cost of living – Jamaicans are increasingly receiving encouraging reports of a once very depressed economy now on the road to recovery with stability in fiscal management and jobs creation.
Having maintained, over many successive years, the enviable reputation, under changing administrations in Bridgetown, as perhaps the most stable and best-managed economy within the Caribbean Community, Barbados is currently going through the trauma that was once the norm for some CARICOM partner states, among them Guyana and Jamaica in particular.
Now, according to data and analyses from international and regional financial institutions Guyana, for all its lingering social woes, is rated with sustained annual economic growth, varying with no less than three percent and up to five percent while constantly attracting high levels of local, regional and foreign private investments.
But it’s the slowly changing and quite promising strides of Jamaica’s economy – for far too long mired with recurring devaluations, skyrocketing unemployment and a spreading criminal rampage that should not be ignored by even ardent detractors.
Happily for Jamaicans and the government of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller in this month when her ruling People’s National Party (PNP) is celebrating its 75th anniversary, there came, earlier this week, the good news of a so-called “thumbs up” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the government’s economic and fiscal management policies.
In a brief media statement reported out of Kingston the IMF Resident Representative, Bert van Selm, praised the PNP-led government for its policies and pointed out that the economic reform programme being supported by the Fund “has been strong . . .” That perspective by the IMF runs counter to the government’s political opponents who continue to reference shortcomings in economic policies.
Earlier this year the IMF had approved US$932.3 million for the country under its Extended Fund Facility. The World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank have also respectively agreed to allocate US$510 million to Jamaica country over the next four years.
Here in Barbados the more politically disenchanted and restless are openly talking and writing that a snap general election may be difficult for the ruling Democratic Labour Party administration to avoid. This is dismissed as sheer political heresy by the party’s faithful “believers”. For its part, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has seized the initiative to go on the offensive against Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, portraying him as heading a virtual “lame-duck” administration.
The big question is whether Barbadians are really in the mood for a return to the polls any time soon, having done so less than eight months ago. At the February 21 general election the DLP was given its second five-year term with a mere two-seat majority in the 30-member House of Assembly and a little over 51 per cent of the valid votes.
Currently, amid deepening social and economic blues, there is a growing perception of the Government’s reluctance to hold meetings of the House of Assembly with the regularity to which Barbadians have been accustomed. Is there more in the proverbial mortar than the pestle?
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.