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EDITORIAL: Budget must respond to our needs


EDITORIAL: Budget must respond to our needs

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ARE BARBADIANS better off today than we were last August?

That is a question which we expect many will ask as we search for evidence of the impact of “the illumination of 270 000 lights” that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler promised last year would create new pathways to progress.

We are searching in the dark, sir.

Last year we were also told that doing nothing was never an option and that the economic reality required us to act.

To that extent, Mr Sinckler was right when he said in his Budgetary Proposals of 2015 that Barbados not only had to act, “but to do so today, not tomorrow”.

He said: “As a country we have to weigh the options of doing nothing and allowing this situation to continue to deteriorate, against raising the courage and showing leadership in tackling it up-front.”

We are not sure that this leadership is evident even today.

The minister railed against the Owen Arthur-led administration, stating that “even in the face of a period of relative economic prosperity and expansion globally . . . no serious attempt was made to capitalise on those opportunities to restructure the Barbados economy in a way that would have moderated its over-dependence on the world economy, reduce our high vulnerability and save us some of the pain . . .”.

Instead, he said, we were given “a plethora of feel-good pet projects, distinguished only by their huge costs and infamous cost overruns . . .”.

Again, we ask, except for some tinkering with international business and the sugar industry, has fundamental restructuring not evaded us? And does wasteful spending not now plague us?

It was in Mr Sinckler’s first Budget presentation that he argued the previous administration “wasted an opportunity in the face of blind desire for regime consolidation, and electoral success”. Is this not precisely why an irresolute administration now finds itself unable to make the harsh decisions, as it keeps one eye on the economy and the other on the electoral clock?

Our greatest wish is that today’s Budget will respond to the minister’s own proclamation of one year ago when he said: “We spend too much, earn too little, and have been for too long watching our key statistics deteriorate while ignoring the warning signs . . . .”

We shall listen to today’s national event in the great expectation that Minister Sinckler not only believes his own words, but also is prepared to decisively act on them for the country’s sake.