EDITORIAL: Keeping hopes high
The debates on the Annual Estimates has been an interesting exercise so far, and the Government has been vigorous in presenting its case with the leading speaker being the Minister of Finance as the leading manager of the economy at this difficult time.
The Government says that it has found the answer to the country’s fiscal deficit problems and that a dose of fiscal prudence and especially careful management of the expenditure should see us out of the woods in the near future.
Barbadians will hope that this assessment is accurate since the answer did not materialise from the earlier strategies, which were equally touted. But economics is not an exact science and no one can always accurately know how people will react to a recession.
Except that we know most rational human beings will be very careful about spending money when that precious commodity is scarce as it has been during this admittedly long recession.
Some major projects such as the Four Seasons and others situated farther along the West Coast have fallen victim to its harsher manifestations, as sources of foreign financing have dried up.
Here, we entrust the fate of the economy to elected leaders, and we judge their performance not only on how they have done but on consideration of whether other policies may have produced, on balance, better results.
Congratulations are therefore in order for the Government on having waged a successful campaign to have equity in the application of the British air passenger duty (APD). It shows what can be done when a concerted, well researched and articulated response is made to the policies of our trading partners that affect us.
We must now turn our attention in the same manner to the matter of the challenges to our international business sector. That sector is such a dynamic one that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels even for a day. Companies in that sector are concerned with saving money and are in the business of financial planning of a high order.
What the Estimates and the outcome of the APD battle may have dramatically highlighted is that we have to look after our national interests wherever and wherever they are challenged, by undertaking focused, factual and well directed research to blunt the edge of such challenges, whether they come from other governments or public organisations.
Tourism and international financial business are both invisible exports, and we have to create and produce our own group of experts whose business it should be to ensure that we are always ready to consider the impact of challenges to our offshore and tourism sectors, and that we have the capacity to mitigate the impact of these challenges whether by creative legislation, or otherwise.
The idea of a centre of excellence to study the financial sector is therefore an idea that should be acted upon at once. Our vital interest in such a valuable source of foreign exchange earnings demands such action. Like tourism, the financial sector is our business.