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WHAT MATTERS MOST: Growth vital to restoration

DR CLYDE MASCOLL, [email protected]

WHAT MATTERS MOST: Growth vital to restoration

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AT THIS TIME, when so much emphasis is being placed on Independence, it would be useful to ask the following question: are we any closer to being independent thinkers?

The answer to this question should go a long way in determining the genuine strides that we have made. Furthermore, it will help us to determine our readiness for managing the future.

The circumstances confronting Barbados in 2016 ought not to be, if our leaders had given thought to our social and economic experiences since Independence. Why did we as a country pursue Independence?

It was not just to increase the material worth of our people but to enhance their self-worth. This meant believing in ourselves and those around us, since self-worth is learned behaviour.

The country’s current leadership is self-centred. It looks inward. It does not seem to look around. It quotes from the past but has not learnt from the past. It even quotes, ad nauseam, from the Bible that it does not believe in. Apparently, effective leadership is about getting others to believe in things, from which the leaders stand to gain, but do not believe in. It is therefore possible for leaders, who are atheists, to profit from the Bible.

If effective leadership as described above is possible in the political arena, then there is no need for policies and programmes to be presented to the electorate. Getting voters to believe in something is enough. While this may be so, governments, who believe in nothing but the vote, fail the people.

In this regard, the economic challenge confronting Barbados in 2008 was in no way as demanding as in the early 1990s. Yet the leadership in the early 1990s believed that economic stability followed by growth could be restored without devaluing the Barbados dollar. Rather than confront the challenge with belief and a realistic plan of action, the current leadership found reason to blame external circumstances.

The plan never addressed the problem of restoring economic growth. It played the game of delivering the “fatted calf”. The facts never supported a foreign exchange problem in the years 2008 to 2012. But the lessons from our Independence journey were not followed. By 2013, a foreign exchange problem startedto emerge from the poor policy choices that gave rise to the printing of money.

I have been repeatedly asked by Barbadians, why what I say and write is not refuted? The answer is simple: whatever I say and write is supported bythe facts.

The current leadership of this country has managed to put us into an unbelievable place. A place where doubting ourselves can be justified. A place where trusting each other is more difficult. And a place where hope has been damaged.

The country’s restoration must start with once again believing. It comes more from accepting the recent mistakes and building from the past experiences that were ignored. No one party made all the mistakes and/or the good decisions since Independence. However,no government has come close to doing the damagedone by the post-2008 one.

Prior to 2008, the response to economic downturn has been to focus on stabilising followed by growing the economy. This time around, there was never any desire to learn from the past. Whatever is done in the future, growth is still the key to the restoration of our quality of life.

The benefit of independent thinking tells us that a future growth strategy must encourage private-public partnerships that utilise local and foreign finance to invest in sustainable projects, with job creation for locals and profit generation for all businesses as the objectives. The relationship between the private and public sector is critical for building back capacity.

In this regard, the Leader of the Opposition recently spoke to a project to make natural gas universally accessible to Barbadians. In addition, such clean energy must be used to generate a greater proportion of our electricity. By utilising more natural gas, local and imported, there is an opportunity to have a private-public partnership that is doable.

The partnership makes the use of clean energy and alternative energy in general financially viable. Therefore, the National Petroleum Corporation will be upsized, not downsized or privatised, to deliver such a project. Benefits will be derived for the investors and Barbadian consumers from the increased supply and demand for natural gas and reduced electricity prices.

This project can be accompanied by a medium/long- term road repair programme, the phasing of which will make it affordable for the Government. More to come.

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