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WHAT MATTERS MOST: Rhetoric and reality mismatch

Dr Clyde Mascoll, mascoll_clyde

WHAT MATTERS MOST: Rhetoric and reality mismatch

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THERE IS A MISMATCH between the rhetoric and the reality of life in Barbados.

This mismatch is evident in the economic, social and even political spheres. There are contradictions between what Government’s economic spokesmen are reporting and what business people and households are experiencing.

In the society, the growing discomfort is being countered by figures on crime and poverty that do not clarify. At the political level, governance is now reduced to outlandish emotional commentary.

Somehow, it is believed that the pain of the last eight years can be wiped away by appealing to the emotions of Barbadians in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Independence.

The fact that a Barbadian born in the last eight years now has less access to tertiary level education is to be ignored. The fact that Barbadians will be asked to pay more for health care delivery is irrelevant. The fact that keeping hope alive is becoming less and less convincing is to be disregarded.

In the post-Independence period, Barbadians became accustomed to Governments that raised their standard of living, even in the presence of economic challenges. Notwithstanding the difficulties of the early 1990s under the Sandiford administration, a clear plan was outlined for a predetermined period. The measures were harsh but they delivered an environment that the Owen Arthur administration was able to build upon.

The social commentators, especially the calypsonians, made sure that the effects of the policies of the day were recorded. Some peculiar businessmen even joined in the criticism of the earlier administrations. Well, times appear to have changed, when the current administration, that has done more damage to the Barbadian spirit and psyche, is able to escape the scrutiny of the social commentators in the same vein.

Sandi was a Dem and Owen was a Bee. So what has changed? Perhaps, the social and economic relationships are more blurred as the economic pie shrinks.

It is now eight years that the current administration has been trying to correct the country’s economic ills, without a clear plan for solving the problems. One thing is evident. It is that additional taxation is forthcoming, notwithstanding that the strategy has failed again and again. The governor of the central bank has again recommended the use of taxation as a solution.

However, it is fascinating that he is advocating taxation as a means of protecting the exchange rate. This is remarkable, given that the foreign reserves are said to be adequate. It must mean that the exchange rate is being used as a scare tactic. The reality is that the Government has opted for taxation to correct the fiscal deficit, in the face of failure.

The way that taxation is expected to protect the exchange rate is by reducing the spending power of Barbadians.

This reduction is to cut the import bill. This means that less foreign exchange will be used. In so doing the relationship between the earning and the using of foreign exchange is more manageable, thus there is less pressure on the exchange rate.

In the face of lower oil prices and an improved tourism performance over the last year, the foreign reserves still declined. This must signal to the Government that there is a deepening structural problem in the economy. This problem has deepened because of the absence of foreign investment. Furthermore, such an absence has severe implications for the medium to long term prospects for the economy’s capacity to earn foreign exchange.

It ought to be evident that the mismatch between the rhetoric and the reality of the structural damage being done to the economy will have far-reaching implications.

Investments that were promised some years ago are not yet in place after years of rhetoric. The reality is that not one of the projects seems yet to be truly ready. Once again, the issue is about making impressions count.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric about Barbados being more than an economy, the dismissal of the NCC workers is indicative of social injustice that has now been verified by the tribunal. The political thinking is clear, yet there is the reality of inaction onthe part of the prime minister. The justification for not reinstating the workers is rhetorical, yet the workers’ reality remains the same.                    

 • Dr. Clyde Mascoll is an economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party advisor on the economy. Email: [email protected]