EDITORIAL: Central Bank owes country an explanation
The email from the Central Bank of Barbados was titled Events For Media Coverage and said in part: “July 15 – Issue of Press release to review Barbados’ economic performance for the 2nd quarter of 2014. Please note that there is no news conference this quarter.”
It had become so routine over the years for governors of the Central Bank to take questions from the Press each quarter upon release of the bank’s analysis of the economy’s performance that this email instantly raised eyebrows.
The questions started to fly almost instantly: What’s this about? Is the governor ill? Are they postponing it or are they having none at all? Are there not two deputy governors at the bank to speak if the governor is unavailable? Are things so bad they are trying to avoid questions? And the list goes on.
The very terse “. . . there is no news conference this quarter” in the absence of any kind of explanation smacks of disrespect, and we therefore have to publicly state our agreement with immediate past president of the Barbados Economic Society, Ryan Straughn.
It would be unfair to ascribe motives, good or bad, to current Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell, but that does nothing to erase the questions that arise. Straughn put it most effectively when he said: “It would be unprecedented for sure and it is not something that should be tolerated, given the precarious nature of the economy. At this point in time one needs to have more engagement from the monetary authorities, namely the Central Bank and the Government, if you really want to engender confidence in businesses, consumers and investors.”
Again we concur 100 per cent with Straughn when he said: “It really should not be up to the governor anyhow to determine whether there is going to be a Press conference or not.
“If he is not available, there are two deputy governors, so it speaks to a lack of respect for the country to simply just release information and then not provide the opportunity for people to field questions . . . . I think that some pressure should be brought to bear on the Central Bank to ensure that there is a Press conference.”
If there is a legitimate reason for not holding the usual Press conference, then the least the authorities can do is offer an explanation to Barbadians. This is not about the governor, the Central Bank, the minister or Ministry of Finance or even the Democratic Labour Party Government. This is about the way we conduct our business nationally and how we engage the entire population as we struggle to get out of this hole into which we have been plunged.
Yes, we agree with the experts that there have to be major fiscal adjustments in this country if we want to achieve economic progress; but it is also clear that all the structural shifting will mean little if the people don’t have confidence in those who lead. Effective communication is always critical to building confidence, and while that has never been one of the strong points of this Government, at least the fact that the Central Bank boss faced the Press every three months, come hell or high water, sent a positive message.
Now it looks like going forward, even that is questionable.