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FREE SPEECH is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed citizens of truly democratic countries and it should be protected at all cost. For that reason alone, it is always welcoming when ordinary folks are given an opportunity to interact with those in authority and get clarification on matters of national importance.
Last week, the people of Barbados had the good fortune of being able to question Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler on various matters affecting the country, on the Sunday call-in programme on VOB 92.9 FM.
Callers, for the most part, posed fairly decent questions but in my opinion, more explicit issues should have been raised and the minister prompted to respond with specificity and clarity.
Why? Any objective analyst would agree that since 2008, the Barbadian economy has taken a severe trouncing thanks in large part to the misguided policies of a Government that has demonstrated its inability to deliver sound socioeconomic measures that could lift the country out of the misery of fiscal strain, debt stranglehold, anaemic growth and high cost of living, among other ills. And the reason is clear: the current administration can excusably be characterised as an accounting Government.
It is apparent to me that in the past eight years, the Government of Barbados, led pointlessly by the Ministry of Finance, has, despondently, formulated and implemented economic policies with accounting, not economics, as the basis for so doing. The constant meddling with marginal tax rates in respect of the value added tax, personal income tax, property tax as well as numerous user fees at, for example, the Bridgetown Port, to stimulate economic activity, futile thus far, are lucid evidence of this approach to economic management. The net result is an economy that has failed desolately to record any consequential rates of economic growth for several years.
Rather than admitting failures and putting sound ideas for overcoming the economic clutter in which the country now finds itself, Sinckler chose instead to revert to one of his illustrious fallacies: The “seismic” nature of the 2008/2009 global economic and financial crisis and the difficulties it has created for Barbados.
Before you get bent out of shape, I am not inferring that that global recession had no major negative implications for Barbados. My point is that it is not the root cause of the evidently weak Barbadian economy on full display to all and sundry! The Government’s response to that untoward global catastrophe has to wear the crown when it comes to the economic disorder prevailing in the country and the lack of hope of relief any time soon.
Going forward, here are some questions I would wish the Minister of Finance to address when he appears again this Sunday on the call-in programme: The Barbados Labour Party has issued its Covenant of Hope for public debate. What is the Government’s vision for the socioeconomic development of Barbados and how does it intend to achieve stated goals? The Government has clearly been relying mostly on the advice of accountants in the formulation of major tax policies.
Why have the economists in the Ministry of Economic Affairs not been given the main responsibility and opportunity for informing government’s economic policies and strategies and be treated in a serious manner? When will the Central Bank return to its main roles as documented in the Central Bank Act and stop dabbling in and dominating Government’s fiscal policies?
I will be listening to the call-in programme for your responses to these questions, Mr Minister. Please do not disappoint.