In a different political incarnation, then Leader of the Queen’s loyal Opposition Clyde Mascoll, repeatedly made calls for a restructuring of Barbados’ vulnerable economic base.
He also admonished the Government of the day for its massive off-budget spending, and predicted that one day the failure to address both situations adequately would return to haunt Barbados.
No one seemingly heeded his erudite economic advice.
Fast forward to 2012.
In the midst of a global economic crisis that seems to be worsening before it gets better, Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Barbados’ credit rating from BBB- to BB+, placing the island’s foreign currency rating out of investment grade.
The pronouncement is a done deal and is now the minor consideration. Since Government is a continuum, what becomes the major consideration is the response that the downgrade must occasion, whether it is from the Freundel Stuart administration, the Owen Arthur administration or even the Mia Mottley administration. We are confident that these mentioned leaders and their political colleagues are all desirous of working towards a more favourable debt/GDP ratio for the benefit of the island.
Close attention must be paid to the effective workings of Government’s Medium Term Fiscal Strategy and if tweaks or adjustments are necessary, these must occur with informed debate across party lines. By the same token, the MTFS must be given adequate time to bring about the desired results.
The consumer curse that sees Barbados importing from bottled water to balloons, must be tackled. We daresay that Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick’s frustration is shared by many us who believe that over the years the agricultural sector has been relegated to the status of distant cousin. There has not been a major thrust — initiated by Government — toward us feeding ourselves for a large portion of post-Independent Barbados. Our food import bill is ridiculously, and avoidably, too high.
The more difficult task of bringing about a diminution in Barbados’ dependence on foreign oil is critical to any future stable economy. We cannot continue to hold conferences and other talk shops on the subject and not seek to implement some of the initiatives which have been bandied about for the past decade or so.
But what about the downgrade?
It was very disconcerting, if not surprising, that Governor of the Central Bank Dr Delisle Worrell came in for political attack after expressing disappointment at the move by Standard and Poor’s and indicating that the downgrade was “unjustified” and “lacking in logic”.
Barbados does not have a debt problem, he said. The MTFS is on course, he added.