ALBERT BRANDFORD: Firing linked to hiring?
YET ANOTHER OUTSTANDING Barbadian seems prepared to sacrifice his well-earned reputation on the altar of politics.
The demise of former Governor of the Central Bank, Dr DeLisle Worrell is being linked in some quarters to the ascension of the former Prime Minister Owen Arthur to lead a team to belatedly put together an economic plan to rescue Barbados.
The suggestion emerged after revelations by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in his recent Press conference on the state of the economy. He shoved aside the Governor, to the chagrin of many Barbadians. However, the announcement
of the economic team came as a surprise from two perspectives: its leadership, and its timing.
I fully understand and appreciate Arthur’s notion of duty and service to country despite the politics.
But over the course of several Budget speeches since 2010, he offered alternative perspectives to Government policies after being severely critical. Both Sinckler and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart poured scorn and contempt
on his suggestions.
In the indulgent environment created over the years, Sinckler referred to Arthur as “yesterday’s man trying to operate in today’s world”. A year later, he told him, the “one thing you should not sacrifice in politics is your personal integrity”. Am I to understand that “yesterday’s man” is now willing to embrace an undertaking under Sinckler’s leadership?
Further, Stuart suggested Barbados does not need Arthur, who thought he was the figure for its stability. Stuart facetiously observed: “We need some stability and he is the figure for stability, let’s call him back. That’s what
Arthur was particularly critical of Government’s fiscal position, debt and the administration’s failure to consider refinancing the debt. He subsequently let loose on the excessive printing of money at the Central Bank. He was extremely severe in his observations on the Governor.
Once Worrell accepted the view that printing of money could no longer be sustained and linked it to “we will get there,” implying devaluation, he became history. In fact, he became the sacrificial lamb of the Minister of Finance and, by extension, the DLP administration, even though, amazingly, Stuart expressed ignorance of the impasse.
At the Press conference, Sinckler alluded to refinancing of the national debt – a position vehemently opposed by Worrell. Indeed, Worrell was adamant that Barbados does not have a debt problem, notwithstanding being classified as having the fourth largest debt in the world by GDP.
That Sinckler is now prepared to talk about refinancing, after firing Worrell, is instructive. But what is more is the immediate association of Arthur with his economic team. This confluence of events could suggest the sacrificing of Worrell had something to do with the emerging differences between him and Sinckler with respect to public policies.
On the other hand, Arthur would have had difficulty associating with a man he publicly castigated. Something had to give, and in the circumstances, the political capital of the Governor cost the least.
The timing in the announcement speaks volumes about Sinckler’s disrespect for the work of the team. Having completed his last Estimates before the general election due in 2018, Sinckler puts forward an economic team to help Government over the course of the year. This is absurd for an administration seeking genuine help on managing the economy.
Having admitted its own failure, it is now asking a former Prime Minister, and trained economist, to join their table when dinner is already served. It is in this sense that Arthur is putting his well-earned reputation for economic management on the line.
Arthur himself expressed some concern about the process, noting: “A consultative group that would be put in place now clearly would not be a consultative group to advise as to what is or should be done but merely a group that could best advise as to how to implement the policies in the Estimates.”
This observation makes a mockery of Arthur’s usefulness in helping to correct the wrong path of the economy. I subsequently learned that the appointment has been deferred until after the debate.
In the circumstances, some believe that Arthur is inspired by another political factor – though he strenuously denied it to me – and that is to undermine the political fortunes of Opposition Leader, Mia Mottley. It is hard not to believe it, given that he is to help implement predetermined policies and not advise on the way forward.
Unfortunately, the public may not be able to separate the two, given the high level of economics, or politics, required.
Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email [email protected]