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EDITORIAL: Estimates more than just about Ds or Bs


EDITORIAL: Estimates more than just about Ds or Bs

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IT DOES NOT take a chartered financial analyst to recognise that Barbados faces uncertain economic challenges. Neither does it take a fiscal and monetary guru to appreciate that significant steps must be taken to get the country out of its financial quagmire.

The simple reality is that Barbados cannot continue to limp along with all the blame for its economic stagnation placed on external developments. Economic growth is necessary since it offers job creation, wealth creation for the private sector and most importantly, a greater possibility of attracting investment funds for the country.

These are some of the issues Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler must grapple with during the Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue debate which begins in the House of Assembly today. It is a tall order and a most challenging job, but he is a politician committed to providing the very best for all Barbadians.

We expect the next five days of debate to be meaningful and not just about debunking opposing views or, for that matter, skirting the serious issues. The guillotine should not come down on these debates on Friday evening without the public benefiting from thorough discussion on the portfolios of housing and lands, agriculture, fisheries and water resources management, health, education and the environment. The people should be better informed on the strategic direction of these ministries.

The concerns raised by business leaders, economists and financial journalists are many. They range from the country’s debt burden, the level of spending, what should be expected from the rating agencies to whether Government is getting the best and most accurate figures, and if the interpretation of those figures is reliable. The opposing views and positions are not for the sake of opposition, but in many instances come from people with a vested interest in and love of this island. They simply want the very best for Barbados.

The slump in international oil prices is helping the country at this time, as is the economic recovery in United States and Britain for our tourism sector. At the same time, it is certain the Government’s debt servicing and the cost of external borrowing will rise. Barbados must in such circumstances maintain a tight fiscal policy, particularly in relation to public debt management while putting all measures in place to attract private capital investments. The finance minister must address the issue of transfers to public enterprises and what is being done to curtail the haemorrhaging of the national purse.

The people have given much to the political directorate and now much is expected of them, especially the finance minister, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and Independent MP and former prime minister Owen Arthur, during the debate. This is much more than about Ds or Bs.