EDITORIAL: Hoping for a better 2017
ARE BARBADIANS BETTER OFF today than they were at the end of 2015? To what extent has the last 12 months offered citizens of a country that has marked 50 years of Independence more hope than one year earlier?
These are reasonable questions to be asked at the end of a calendar year when hopefulness and keen anticipation of greater attainment tend to satisfy our shared bidding.
The answer to our earnest wishes can often evade us for a full year, which must have been the case for Barbadians in 2016.
One bright and heartening prospect is the fact that the year that comes to its inevitable close in a matter of hours is likely to record modest economic growth. Forecasters hold the consensus that growth will be in excess of one per cent but less than two per cent.
The latest confirmation was contained in a report of the Inter-American Development Bank, which, however, warned that the deficit and national debt levels remain areas of great concern.
The failure of the Government to reduce spending on transfers and subsidies to its agencies and corporations, plus the pervasive issues surrounding debt repayment and high public sector salary payments continue to haunt our fiscal optimism. Procrastination has been at the heart of this shortcoming by a Government afraid to confront the ugly reality with hard decisions.
Beyond the news of economic growth, there is little else about which to cheer, although there is a sense by some that we should be celebrating the fact that rural communities that were deprived last Christmas had access to water in their homes this time around.
There were others who hailed the fact that garbage had been collected in some parts of the island just prior to and immediately after the holidays, as if this was some colossal attainment. The same can also be said for the limited amount of pothole patching undertaken in recent weeks, as if taxpayers had been bestowed with Santa Claus generosity of a special kind.
We would all hope that these services, including a reliable public transport system, are legitimate and deserving services citizens expect in a well run country. These should be no special year-end favours or pre-election gifts. We must demand them.
So we enter 2017 in the hope that there is a return to a level of reasonable provision of basic services to all citizens.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast” are words attributed to the 18th century English poet Alexander Pope, who sought to suggest that it is in our nature to always seek optimistic answers to areas of our lives that lack clarity, including the dawning of a new year.
Thus we hope we will be better off at the end of 2017 than we were in 2016.