WHAT MATTERS MOST: Economy and the indignant minister
The narrative among the apologists for the inept Freundel Stuart administration has gone from the economic crisis being caused by the external international environment, to what can the Opposition do differently.
It is embarrassing to believe that a country so steep in intellectual tradition is now without the wherewithal to resolve a crisis that has its roots in ignorance. But this embarrassment is purely a manifestation of the quality of those who have recently led this country to its darkest hour.
There is a sense of righteous indignation that characterises the arrogance of the Government that is especially evident in its Minister of Finance, who while prostrate is professing innocence of the journey that has led the country into a dark hole. The righteousness is exalted in the lap of guilt. While the indignation, that is the anger at supposed injustice, is clothed in disrespect for the intelligence of Barbadians.
The indignation is most apparent in the minister’s tone as he rants on the serious issues affecting Barbadians. There cannot be an injustice in blaming a man in the face of evidence for wrongs, while standing in steadfastness or lying in submission, which he has committed.
The most recent twist puts the icing on the cake. Minister Sinckler is now telling the public that the current economic recession is not the worst in our history since the depression of the 1930s, in contrast to his message over the last three years, simply because he is now preaching hope from the altar of political expediency.
It is as though there is a conspiracy to keep Barbadians in the dark on the true state of affairs in the economy. What is even more worrying is the lack of clarity in Government’s policies to bring the country out of its hole.
The strategy is for the Minister of Finance to announce public policies that are not fully known to his Cabinet colleagues, especially Prime Minister Stuart. This was successfully practised in the last general election, when the issue of privatization was twisted to full effect in favour of the Government. It has become the chorus for all policy since then, which leads to deliberate confusion for the public.
Even the much-maligned former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Sandiford has joined in the public utterances and he wants to know what has gone wrong since 1991, rather than since 2008.
It is increasingly being recognized that he played his part in rescuing Barbados from the depths of economic disaster which he contributed to. But for anyone to try to absolve the current Government from responsibility for Barbados’ fiscal woes is to put
party ahead of country, even when the hour for blame has truly passed. The weight of blame for the current circumstances rests heavily upon the failed stewardship of the current Government. It is time to move on!
There is nothing wrong with a government employing more people if the economy is growing. When there is growth, there is more revenue for government. This comes from a larger economy that is spending more, which is preferable to increasing tax rates. The latter has proven to be an ineffective way to raise revenue in the last three years and the Government has finally recognised the folly of trying to get more revenue from higher tax rates in a declining economy.
The indignant minister refuses to accept that his tenure is associated with poor domestic policies and even poorer implementation. The evidence shows that the Barbados economy is smaller; the unemployment rate is higher; the fiscal deficit is unprecedented; the debt crisis has worsened; the printing of money is unparalleled and the foreign reserves have declined without explanation.
Yet, the minister sought to compare himself in a recent interview with Dr Gordon Brown – Britain’s longest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer – on the grounds that he studied history.
Two years ago, Brown was in line to become managing director of the International Monetary Fund. So in time, a Barbadian may be considered for the leadership of one of the Bretton Woods’ institutions.
On a serious note, the hemming and hawing of the Government in this country’s darkest hour leaves much to be desired. There is a sense that the Barbados economy is being treated like a pawn in a political chess game between the errant Minister of Finance and the sporadic Prime Minister. The game is real, not imagined, and so are the setbacks.
Clyde Mascoll is an economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party adviser on the economy.