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EDITORIAL: Need to hear Sinckler


EDITORIAL: Need to hear Sinckler

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It may be one of the most significant paradoxes of Barbadian politics today – the fact that we so often treat what our politicians say with such scepticism, while at the same time clamouring to hear what they have to say on the next national issue.

And in the current scheme of things there is hardly another politician whose public utterances are more finely dissected than Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s. The reason for this is obvious as his pronouncements can have a significant impact on the lives of people in every strata of the society.

But the reality is that while this is the case, and while he may see the need to retreat from the spotlight from time to time as a coping mechanism in order to maintain his sanity while taking charge of what is undoubtedly the most taxing Cabinet portfolio, there will always be issues that cry out for his clarification.

Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr Delisle Worrell presented one such challenge this week. Anyone who read the news reports of his third quarter economic assessment and who retains even a modicum of curiosity would have to be more than a little nervous at this time.

According to the governor, as a result of the cost-cutting measures put in place at the start of the year by the Government, between April and September it had been able to reduce the fiscal deficit by $77 million.

He said too that between this month and the end of March 2015 these measures should yield another $123.9 million. These would certainly be numbers that are “trending” in the right direction.

But then Dr Worrell made a further statement: These two figures notwithstanding, Government would still need to cut a further $174.6 million from its deficit by the end of March next year if it wants to achieve its target.

That thought alone must have made a lot of Barbadians sit up and take note, because if all the cutting and belt tightening so far, all the reductions in services at state entities, all the layoffs in the public service have only achieved about half the target, the future must look grim.

The Government does not have the “fat” to trim another 3 000 jobs, it can’t realistically put any more pressure on the University of the West Indies and it can’t impose any more austerity measures at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. So what are the options?

Will it significantly reduce its deficit reduction target? Can it even contemplate such in its current relationship with the International Monetary Fund?

And that brings us back to the place where we started – the need to hear from the Minister of Finance sooner rather than later. Nothing short of a frank and open discussion with the population will suffice at this time.

Thankfully, Minister Sinckler has never once hinted in his conduct that he is afraid to take on a challenge, even when it appears that the full weight of the nation’s economy is on his shoulders.

We therefore urge the minister to seize the opportunity and engage Barbadians on this matter of the deficit and the gulf that exists between our targets and our reality. Further fear and despondency within the population is not what Barbados needs at this time.