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WHAT MATTERS MOST: Time to put Barbados first

DR CLYDE MASCOLL, [email protected]

WHAT MATTERS MOST: Time to put Barbados first

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THE TIME HAS COME to put Barbados first. This must come with the belief that better can be done.

Better in this case does not mean that in 2017, the economy grows by one to two per cent after years of decline; it does not mean an increase in the foreign reserves by a few million dollars, and it does not mean a lower fiscal deficit. There is much more to being better and putting this country first.

Barbados longs for effective leadership and good governance. When all is said and done, the essence of politics is to improve the quality of life of Barbadians. The quality is not all measurable in today’s quantities; it contains some belief about the future.

There is an element of improving the quality of life of Barbadians that must be planned and executed. The notion that what happens in Barbados depends totally on external circumstances betrays common sense. Why would we have fought for self-government? Furthermore, why would having any form of local government matter in the first place?

I recently had a conversation with a man inhis late 30s to early 40s, who put his future incontext for me. The context was profound. He said: “I read your articles and I admire you, but I want you to make sure of one thing for me.” I asked what and he said: “That my daughter’s future is not determined by my income.”

If previous governments had allowed the future of Barbadians to be determined by their parents’ income, then the strides made by this country would have been shortened by lack of vision. The human capital that has been unlocked, since the 1950s, would not have been possible using household income as the determinant of access to higher education.

Effective leadership does not mean micro-managing the various institutions of government. Rather, it entails being in charge of the general direction and control of the Government through prudent policies. The latter includes predominantly fiscal, monetary and income policies on the economic front.

In this regard, the issue of whether or not the Government approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) must be addressed in 2017. A major part of the basis for restoring hope is economic recovery. This has taken an extraordinarily long time to happen. The major problem is the lack of confidence in the Government’s policies.

If the IMF issue is not addressed, then it creates another tier of uncertainty with respect to the leadership and governance of the country. It must be fully determined how the approach to the IMF was made and by whom. This is an internal wound that cannot be pushed under the bus.

Better must be done. Barbadians need details on where the country stands. These details cannot be provided by a minister of finance who continues to underperform and is not the captain of the team. They cannot be provided by the governor of the Central Bank, who is an off-the-field adviser. They must come from the captain, who must stand up and be counted, regardless of the conditions of play.

A Test batsman who averages 28 after eight years, but makes 40 in his most recent innings, cannot be regarded as the future of West Indies cricket. First, he is fortunate to have been playing for so long. Second, notwithstanding his lack of performance, he is still being paid and is evidently suffering no reduction in his quality of life. In fact, he is clearly better off as the team is performing more poorly.

There are, however, some analysts who arewaiting to justify why runs and wickets do notmatter. What matters most is the style in which he plays the game. He looks good even though he does not perform. He says the right things in the press conference. In fact, he is programmed to say the same things repeatedly.

In the political space, some analysts who have dismissed the influence of economic performance on political outcomes, in the past, are the ones waiting for some economic indicators to look upwards. They will ignore their previous dismissals of economic factors and praise the recent upturn, while hoping that all the recent low scores are forgotten.

How come we require the Test batsman tolearn from his past performances, but areprepared to put the past behind us in the political arena? The answer is that with few exceptions, we evaluate the cricketer’s performance more objectively than we do the political party’s. Many put party ahead of country.

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