FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Realistic projections?
First I would like to make a correction to last week’s column where the word “all” was omitted in the sentence which should have read: “It was never envisaged that all participants in the camp would make agriculture their career.” Obviously there would be no point having an agricultural camp if it wasn’t expected to attract at least some participants to the industry.
Having listened to the Central Bank governor’s recent Press conference, it seems to me that Dr DeLisle Worrell’s upbeat demeanour and his projections for the economy don’t match with the figures contained in the report being discussed. Furthermore, despite the governor’s best efforts, it’s doubtful whether it will engender the expected confidence in view of the continued perception that the Central Bank aligns itself too closely with Government.
The Press conference might therefore be seen as no more than a good PR piece for Government. Dr Worrell’s recurring dismissal of questions relating to the concerns of various parties with “that says a lot for the person making the comment” didn’t help the situation.
But what forced me to pull over and park, lest I lost control of my vehicle, was the statement that Barbados is one of the most informed societies in the world bar none! It certainly is encouraging that Barbadians, described recently as resilient but complacent, are taking a more active interest in issues affecting their lives, perhaps because they’ve finally realised the seriousness of our situation. But Government certainly can’t claim credit for informing, since I don’t think there has ever been a time in our history when a government has sent such mixed signals, confusing rather than informing the public.
The continuing vacillation over issues like implementation of tax measures and the differences of opinion expressed publicly by members of Cabinet are still fresh in our minds. As the May 8 Nation Editorial so skilfully puts it, “U-turns seem to be the modus operandi of this Government in recent times. And this MO has to come to a halt with immediate effect as it leads to confusion, misinterpretations and creates doubt in the minds of the public who look to the Government to not only lead, but to chart a journey to take this country forward . . . . So lead and make decisions and stop this wishy-washy behaviour”. Even Minister Donville Inniss is reported to have said that Government has done a poor job of reaching out to the country.
The old song of Barbados’ stability was again sung by Governor Worrell. That, like our supposed high literacy rate, is being seriously eroded and we stand on the brink of the reckless behaviour exhibited by many of our neighbours. Some, like Peter Boos (Barbados Business), are concerned about “Government’s continued pursuit of higher taxes as a recovery strategy at a time when economic growth is what is most needed”, noting that “higher taxes will continue to result in less investment, debt defaults, bankruptcies, corruption, tax avoidance and non-payment of taxes, capital flight, increased joblessness and higher crime . . . and depress growth further”.
Also, how can it be said that there is national consensus for fiscal discipline, which I assume includes the long overdue public service cuts, when every layoff has caused an uproar? Because there are no riots and tear gas doesn’t mean all is well. We can’t continue to take stability for granted.
But Public Service job cuts are not the only answers to fiscal discipline. Continuing waste and “high living” in Government must be addressed. Apparently the much-maligned colonial government didn’t allow deficits.
It was only after we gained our “independence” and could do as we pleased that deficits went haywire. Even further back, in 1849, Charles Dickens in David Copperfield commented: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” Haven’t we learned yet?
Some of the governor’s statements were inspiring though: we have to build the right foundation; we have to have persistence and determination; we must emulate those of us who set a goal of excellence; must improve productivity and public sector performance; give first-class service at all times. Let’s translate these into action!
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator.