EDITORIAL: Duty avoided
A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week. – United States General George S. Patton
THERE can be little doubt that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler did much research and preparation for the delivery of arguments and statistics that formed part of his marathon address at this year’s Appropriation Bill in the House of Assembly.
But his highly anticipated speech failed to escalate the value of immediately wrestling to the ground the problems of debt and deficit in our economy. To that extent the minister did not enjoy the approbation he might have anticipated when he proudly stood to his feet on Monday morning.
He provided us with five hours of food for thought and about five supplicatory pleadings for succour.
This is not the behaviour of his office that would earn plaudits. The effect of Sinckler’s bended knee posture was consistent with his failed solo effort to secure the advice of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur as the new leader for the besieged Economic Advisory Council. Help!
Together these two pleadings send a signal that the Barbados economy is in the hands of a man who fears he may drown in the economic swamp around him, swimming against the tide of public consternation.
Never before has Barbados seen this pivotal public occasion used to request direction on the way forward and to urge businesses to bring back to our shores valuable foreign exchange believed to be held overseas. That certainly was not the most apposite forum.
By being sincere in inviting the Opposition to provide Parliament with details of how it would make deep cuts, the Minister played a dangerous game of enticement that could have backfired had the Opposition been equipped with its message and prepared to back-raise him with its plans.
Not surprisingly, independent MP Arthur who said he had no vested interest in “seeing the collapse of an economy that I have spent more than half of my life helping to build”, took up the challenge and forcefully made a case for a new approach, including seeking help from the international financial community, one of only a few options still left on the table, and possibly resetting the peg of our currency.
What eluded Arthur’s honest advice, however, was the fact that the minister seems to give pre-eminence to political contemplations which, the record will show, have crippled any notion he may have had of taking bold decisions.
Now that Sinckler has shared with the country the last Estimates speech he will give before general elections, it is clear that his was an escape into avoidance of the harsh reality, a matter of contentment for his political prospects, but a major discomfort for the rest of the country which anticipated, and probably even feared, he would have provided answers, not sought them.
Dispensing the right economic medicine is not for the faint-hearted. Oh, for the courageous finance ministers of the past like Arthur himself, Sir Lloyd Sandiford and, in particular, Sir Harold St John, who fully understood their duty to country.
Again, we quote the respected American general of World War ll: “Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.”