EDITORIAL: Do what is right for the country
WE ARE NOT surprised that the state of the economy continues to dominate the headlines with Labour Day celebrations having taken place during the past week. Also, the acting governor of the Central Bank is due to deliver his first report to the country in a resumed setting of a press conference, and the Budget is due this month.
The opinions of former central bank governor Dr DeLisle Worrell, and former Prime Minister Owen Arthur agreeing that the country needs to go to the IMF were also published. But such a move may produce bitter medicine which might not please workers who have not had pay increases for some years now.
The fiery speeches of BWU general secretary, Toni Moore, and Akanni McDowall, president of the National Union of Public Workers, suggest that the unions are not merely firing shots across the bow. They will be adopting a firm approach in upcoming negotiations at a time when further austerity may be facing the country; even if blood cannot spring from stone.
The tone of the speeches has not been heard for a long time, and it may be due to the charged nature of the current atmosphere in which the workers believe that they have legitimate grievances.
Moreover, workers and their unions may not be too impressed with a Government from among whose ranks, aggressive language about “enemies of the state” reeks of former times when iron fisted colonial attitudes stiffened the backbone and the resolve of the emerging unions.
It is easy to support the objection of the unions to sending home people from either sector, since severe hardship results, and in human terms, children are deprived of the various benefits of a parent’s pay packet.
Crime may increase and some aspects of anti-social behaviours may take root, becoming difficult to eradicate even when the tough times have passed. Nobody, including Dr Worrell, believes that cutting the workforce is pleasant, but in a bad situation, it may be inevitable.
We believe the lesson to be learnt is that there is a high premium on getting policies right, and in national economic management, political posturing at the expense of what is good for the national interest is best avoided.
A great part of the legacy of former Prime Minister Sandiford will be that when the chips were down, he seized the moment and did what was right, placing the national interest above partisan concerns which might otherwise have mattered, and went to the International Monetary Fund.
Obviously, there are differences between the 1991 situation and the present circumstances, but we feel that the core issue is the same. The country is short of foreign exchange, and its fiscal deficit, though reducing, is still too high, and the economy is not yet growing at a fast enough rate.
Public opinion must therefore be on guard to ensure we do not in the future fall into this kind of economic quagmire. Hence we applaud the resumption of press conferences by the Central Bank, and hope the acting governor will use the opportunity to inform the country about the need for public engagement in the effort to return stability to our national economy.
Bad economic and fiscal management adversely affects everyone and usually hits the poor harder, but when the middle and upper classes also feel the harder pinch, serious and painful remediation is necessary. We cannot fool ourselves. We are now between a rock and a hard place.