Avoiding the economic quicksand
This week should have seen the first contingent of the 3 000 workers set to be cut from the workforce being announced but the Prime Minister informed us on Thursday last that the date has now been extended to the new deadline of the 30th of this month. The list of those to be terminated will be examined by the Prime Minister and then we shall know.
We are bound to respect the decision of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet in their choice of policy options even though we are always bound to constructively analyse those decisions; but we are as aware as anyone else that a stitch in time saves nine and that such decisions as must be taken on cutting expenditure should be taken earlier rather than later.
But while the Prime Minister and his advisers do whatever homework they consider necessary, Sir Lloyd Sandiford, back on the island from his diplomatic stint in China, has asked a most pertinent question. Recognizing the almost identical situation with which he had to grapple in the early 1990s, he asked: “How did we get back here?”
That is the million-dollar question, and the experienced mind of Sir Lloyd has focused on a question which many are saying should take second place to rescuing the country from its present quicksand.
Sir Lloyd’s question is pregnant with public interest considerations since the welfare of every man, woman and child is intimately connected with the answer to his query.
We are of the steadfast opinion that every hand should be on deck in the effort to stabilize the present situation but Sir Lloyd’s question should be answered and examined in a cold rational and non-emotional manner since situations like the present must be avoided at all costs.
The social and economic gains since Independence are always exposed to destructive economic forces and the knowledge of how we got into this rut, once understood should enable the properly managed ship of state to avoid economic tsunamis of any kind.
It may therefore be a reasonable inference for us to draw that Sir Lloyd must have thought that the lessons of the 1990s should have been learnt, and that if they were well learnt we should not now be here.
There has been some calls for groupings of eminent persons and the like to be established to advise on policies on the escape from our present predicament. Such a committee would have to be futuristic in its perspective.
But we think that whatever else is done; an official examination of the occasions in the past, when we have landed in economic quicksand should be a useful landmark study of the pitfalls to be avoided given the dynamics of public finance.
Such a study of these two periods of austerity positioned at either end of a successful 14-year stint of economic management by former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, could be an eye-opener.
The best method of getting at the truth and knowing what happened is rational analysis which will tell us whether the recession is to blame or whether incorrect policy options presaged our present crisis.
The stakes are too high and the social costs too great to allow this kind of disaster to befall us for a third time.