Over the past four years, the Peoples Empowerment Party has been consistently putting forward a comprehensive six point plan for the resuscitation and development of the Barbadian economy. But, our society – led by the intellectually lazy Democratic Labour Party and Barbados Labour Party – has failed to take a serious look at our prescription!
It is clear to us that the solution to Barbados’ economic predicament has to be multi-pronged. And it is equally (and tragically) clear that the economic prescriptions of the DLP and BLP are fatally deficient in that, between the two of them, they are based on no more than two of the six essential prongs!
The only thing that the BLP has gotten right is the recognition that there is a need for policies to restore the purchasing power of the masses of the Barbadian people. Thus, they have proposed such things as reducing the VAT rate, reinstating tax-free allowances, and reducing land tax.
Likewise, the only thing that the DLP has gotten right is the recognition that Government must ensure that social welfare services and programmes that prevent or alleviate human distress are maintained.
The PEP subscribes to these policies as well, but the reality is that these policies cannot – by themselves – do the job that is required to be done! Indeed, even before we get to those policies, we have to first attend to the critical task of taking measures to re-establish the soundness of the finances and credit of our Government.
The fundamental problem we are facing with Government’s finances is that for several years now our government has not been operating within its income. And this fact, along with the recent decline in Government’s tax intake caused by the recession, has created a $500 million annual structural deficit in Government’s finances, resulting in our Government, among other things, borrowing funds on a monthly basis to pay the salaries of civil servants.
It is crucial that this problem be solved or at least significantly ameliorated, in order to give our Government a secure platform from which to launch forward with the other resuscitation policies.
Our Government simply has to restructure its Budget in order to bring expenditures more in line with revenues! And let us make it clear that we are not advocating any policy of mass lay offs! There should be no policy of jettisoning any of our workers, since we are all fellow citizens who must all survive. But there will have to be some cutting or restructuring of government’s bureaucracy and programmes, and perhaps some non-replacement of retiring government workers.
In addition, there must be a new initiative in relation to statutory corporations! No longer can we accept the notion that statutory corporations will be loss-making enterprises! They must be given a new mandate to operate efficiently, and – within reason – to earn their keep. They must also be given a new management structure, and we must scour our society for the most astute and patriotic entrepreneurial managers to put in place at our state corporations. Please note that the PEP has worked out detailed proposals on these matters.
Other prongs of our PEP blueprint include policies to re-energise production in our agriculture, manufacturing, construction, tourism and financial services sectors; the development of a more self-reliant and environmentally appropriate Barbadian style of living; and the engineering of a new social contract based on a greater degree of equality and sharing of resources.
For the umpteenth time, the PEP is warning Barbadians that the traditional development paradigm that successive DLP and BLP governments have pursued over the past fifty years has now become obsolete, and that what will be required from here onwards is new thinking designed to lift our developmental effort to a higher plane of sophistication.
The PEP is ready and willing to share its ideas and to work with other relevant Barbadian civil society institutions and citizens.
* David Comissiong is the President of the Peoples Empowerment Party.