EDITORIAL: Pointless waiting until policies hurt
With the first tranche of workers in the public sector having received their termination letters, the pain of separation from jobs has had an immediate impact.
Some of those who received their letters from the NHC have told of the problems their households will face with breadwinners terminated and children left to be clothed and fed without the inflow of pay packets which in some cases have kept households afloat – for the past 11 years, in one reported case.
This circumstance is not a happy one but Prime Minister Stuart, addressing the Barbados’ Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon on Friday last, sought to justify his Government’s policy. He pointed out that while he would not be caught up in the business of the numbers of workers, he was committed to the programme because the restructuring of Barbadian administration and economy has to take place.
He noted that “we are not going to keep going through this over and over again. Every time something happens in the economies of our traditional trading partners we go through this anguish here and as soon as it passes, we go back to old habits. This time we are putting this on a sustainable effort and we are going to make sure it stays on that path”.
Implicit in this assertion is the recognition that policymakers do have some control over some aspects of the domestic economy and that small economies are not left entirely defenceless in the face of “things happening in the economies of our trading partners”.
The Prime Minister’s words represent laudable objectives of the Government; but some reflection is necessary, since it is not clear how any prime minister can make sure the economy stays on any path.
Given his penchant for history, the Prime Minister has drawn attention to “recessionary” difficulties during times when Messrs Errol Barrow, Tom Adams and Sir Lloyd Sandiford held office. We note that he did not include the Owen Arthur administration in this collection, but at this crunch time, our interest is not in the right party or the wrong party. That will be chosen in due course in a democratic fashion.
The issue now is, what are the right policies? If the policies followed by Mr Arthur produced growth and manageable deficits, then we should draw such wisdom as one can from those policies while avoiding the policy mistakes of Messrs Adams, Barrow and Sandiford.
A national economy is a people-centred living organism which responds to stimuli of one kind or other. As an example, the decisions being taken now have already provoked responses. But the future well-being of this or any country and its people resides in its policymakers’ making the right choices to avoid this kind of meltdown!
Manifestoes and budget debates should be read and constructively analysed by our national institutions, such as trade unions, corporate entities, churches, economists and all civic-minded people in our community.
It is pointless waiting till mistaken policies hurt the economy in a socially harmful way.
Public opinion must express itself when the policies are first released and before they are written in stone – and before human suffering becomes palpable.