Government responds too late to crisis
IF EVER there was an inopportune time to break bad news to an expectant population, it was the recent announcement by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler that as soon as the Christmas season is over, 3 000 public servants will be cut from the public service.
It was indeed a dramatic climb down from the statement throughout the latter half of last year that the economy was stable and a brutal answer to the perennial taunt from Government: tell us where to cut.
It is not unreasonable to conclude that, inasmuch as the solution to the cut came at the conclusion of the International Monetary Fund consultation about our dire economic situation, Government had no choice. Further, it was a precondition to the Credit Suisse loan.
Sometime recently we heard the phrase about “punishment with laughter”. Surely, this matter cannot be so treated as many households will spend the Christmas season in a state of uncertainty that will impact the holiday spirit.
Though we expected there would be severe cuts, given the state of the economy and the recent prognosis by credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, the timing of the “Black Friday” announcement was insensitive, to say the least.
Government had taken much too long to make the necessary adjustments in spending when Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell said earlier this year at a private sector consultation that a $400 million adjustment had to be made.
That measure was also punished with a degree of laughter if not derision, even after the budgetary statement in August indicated that expenditure cuts would be needed in order to stabilize the fiscal situation but also to stem the foreign reserve slide the country was experiencing.
Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss got a little flack for his recent statement about the size of the public service, but we got the impression he was aware of the situation and was just trying to test public reaction about the impending gloom.
The position of the both unions is interesting. Barbados Workers’ Union general secretary Sir Roy Trotman urged members not to be “consumed with anger” at those responsible for the job cuts. He seemed to sense some uneasiness among members.
The leadership of the National Union of Public Workers had nothing to say as it emerged from an emergency meeting last Saturday. It will be interesting to see the kind of response it makes in the coming weeks.
As we approach this Christmas season of peace, we can only hope for forbearance and tolerance for inasmuch as we understand the need for and have consistently called for reduction in Government’s expenditure to save this economy.
Government was much too slow to react to the exploding economic crisis and rather than having to use a surgeon’s scalpel to resolve our problems, now has to resort to the guillotine to achieve some semblance of stability.
Like an invigorating wave of delight, laughter invades our entire being, reviving all our senses, but it might be still too late to ask: when was the last time you laughed until you cried?