Blinded to the obvious
I WAS HOPEFUL and excited before the recent meeting of the Social Partnership. All sides recognised that we were on the brink of economic ruin and they were anxious to find an effective solution. They could not wait one more week.
Therefore, I highly commend the Government, unions and the private sector for putting Barbados first.
Before the meeting, the Government repeatedly explained that it was desperate for a solution. It had designed and implemented the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) as its best solution, and claimed to be willing to replace it with a better solution if one could be found. I was impressed with this apparent change of attitude.
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration appeared to be finally maturing by willing to accept good advice. This is in direct contrast of it generally following bad economic advice over the past nine years. It seemed oblivious to the fact that when it repeatedly failed, we repeatedly suffered.
The private sector representatives did not think that the NSRL would work. They are correct. Higher taxes will not result in greater economic growth, which is the obvious solution to Barbados’ unsustainable debt situation.
The union representatives thought that the NSRL was too austere – it is too much of a bitter pill to swallow. They are correct. They suggested that the dosage be cut in half, to five per cent. The Government explained the consequences of reducing the NSRL. Namely, that since it is now illegal to cut public workers’ salaries, the only option available to the Government was to send home up to 10 000 public workers. This needs an explanation.
In 1991, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) directed the DLP administration to cut the cost of the civil service by $300 million, or else. Approximately 75 per cent of public workers agreed to have their salaries reduced by eight per cent for 18 months.
With elections coming due, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) promised the workers that it would remove this option if elected. It was elected and kept the promise. Before it can be deemed a reckless promise, the BLP should explain why 92 per cent of a person’s salary is not preferred over zero per cent.
One of the principal aims of the meeting was for the Government to receive a better plan. I was disappointed that after calling for an urgent meeting, a better plan was not proposed. Clearly something went terribly wrong – for us. Do they not understand that if a better plan is not proposed, then a severe austerity plan will be implemented? Who really wants austerity?
Neither the private sector, nor the unions nor Government wants Barbadians to suffer under an austerity-based solution. Even the IMF does not want austerity because it would rather give money to countries with natural resources that can be privatised.
Our natural resources are mainly our people, and slavery was abolished approximately 180 years ago. So who wants austerity? The only one that wants Barbadians to suffer through an austerity-based programme appears to be Satan.
I believe that the Government, private sector and union representatives honestly want to bring quick relief to Barbadians who are suffering from political failures. The solutions to these failures, and their implementation plans, have been published on SolutionsBarbados.com over two years ago.
But the meeting’s participants seemed temporarily blinded to them. The only reason left to explain this blindness is spiritual. The solution to that sort of blindness is also spiritual. Pray, Barbados.
– GRENVILLE PHILLIPS II