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Tennyson Joseph, [email protected]


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THERE IS NOW near-common agreement amongst commentators responding to the 2015/16 Budget presented by the Minister of Finance of Barbados Christopher Sinckler that the Budget is nothing more than International Monetary Fund (IMF) revenue-extracting prescriptions.

Specifically, coming against a background in which all major local civil society leaders had reached a consensus that growth-inducing rather than revenue-extracting measures were required, the insistence by the minister in raising an additional $200 million in taxation indicates an elected Parliament whose key decisions are now largely determined by external actors.

Significantly, whilst every major local sector representative has bemoaned the fact that the Budget has failed to address both their sectoral and the wider national needs, the Minister of Finance has bombastically congratulated himself. His criteria of success are clearly externally determined.

Given this clear evidence of “policy capture”, an urgent question which needs to be explored is this: what are the features of the ruling administration in Barbados which explain why its main policy thrust has been the uncritical capitulation to policy prescriptions of the IMF, whose historical focus has always been myopically concentrated on ensuring that country policies satisfy external creditors above the attainment of local growth and development aspirations?

First is the fact that the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration had inherited the Government after three terms in opposition wilderness, and its defeat in 1994 had been largely a consequence of far-reaching economic failure. Insecurity and timidity on the economic front is one of its key features.

Secondly, it has not shown the intellectual will and capacity to craft an updated social democratic response to the current challenges. This “intellectual laziness” has resulted in the slavish adoption of externally created, ready-made prescriptions, whose adoption requires no independent intellectual effort. At a lower level, this is reflected in the quality of the DLP’s leading personnel, since following the illness and death of Prime Minster David Thompson in the midst of an economic crisis, a “second eleven” was unexpectedly elevated to senior ministerial position.

Thirdly, the DLP’s extended period of political opposition appears to have resulted in a kind of “political opportunism” among its ranks, manifested in the practice of the Government enjoying power for its own sake. It is this which primarily explains the silence, apparent indifference, detachment and nonchalance of the Government whilst the wider society expresses deep concern about the future.

It is the combination of all of these features which explains the incredulous ease with which a popular government with social democratic roots has metamorphosed into a single-minded implementer of harsh IMF prescriptions. It has done so on the basis that “there is no alternative” (always a sign of bankruptcy) when, in fact, its own internal weaknesses have pushed it in this direction.

The IMF would be very pleased if all the governments with which it interfaces were so compliant.

Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]