Cloudy with every chance of more rain –– heavy rain. That is pretty much the economic forecast on the Caribbean horizon, isn’t it?
As we in Barbados, on the overcast but cool Christmas holidays, were mulling over the apocryphal alternative proposals of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) and the recondite ramblings of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB) on our way out of the debacle of sending home 3,500 public workers in the New Year, our thoughts were sadly redirected to the more pressing and tragic circumstances of our closest neighbours St Vincent and St Lucia, and Dominica as well.
It seemed that what was one man’s meat was another’s poison. The rains that brought us a comfortably cool habitat for contemplating in this neck of the woods were given to disaster and death elsewhere in a strangely devastating and unusual turn of weather.
We may debate, of course, how this desolation, which, as usual, circumvented Barbados, and then headed for other these Eastern Caribbean entities, represents the latest manifestation of the effect of climate change, and how much worse it will get. As important as such discourse might be, the fate of St Lucia and St Vincent in particular should set us thinking that we are indeed a fortunate people.
We yet have only the restructuring of our economy to deal with, and the heartbreak attendant upon the relief of employment of the marked 3,500 in January, which, it should be fairly clear by now –– for all the good intentions expressed –– is virtually unavoidable.
Imagine for a moment having to wrap a remedial capsule for the consequences of a severe rainstorm, with its flooding, landslides, damage and possibly death with the Minister of Finance’s medicine for critical economic reconstruction at this time!
Even with the uphill task ahead of getting our national debt to easily manageable levels and readjusting our economy for more sustainable benefit, we have much to be grateful for. We ought to stop thinking that we are in the worst possible situation in the world, when we are evidently not.
We need also to count our blessings, including those in the showers we have been consistently getting this past week. We must thank the Almighty that we have not had to endure the extreme weather and its havoc, as experienced by such places as the United States, England, France, Russia, Turkey, Iran, China, the Philippines and our most unfortunate Caribbean neighbours.
And as we offer our assistance to our devastated sister islands in whatever way we can, let us ponder upon what little or more good fortune we can speak of, and thank the good Lord for being able to share with our regional brothers and sisters.
As to our own domestic trials which we must face up to in the next few days as 2014 beckons, regrettably it seems we have been dragging our feet, intoxicated by the rhetoric from within and without.
Lamentably, few, if any, of the organizations or spokespersons offering any alternative medicine of correctness to Mr Chris Sinckler’s have been doing so with any strong sense of urgency. We have been on the side of consultation. We have even given the nod to the Eminent Persons Group idea. But we have had no feel of emergency.
It is as if we have all the time in the world between now and January 15 to pontificate and postulate ourselves to some comfortable and painless resolution to our economic woes. It is as if Tornado IMF and Hurricane 3,500 Jobs Lost will bypass us miraculously on its way to other destinations.
Then we have, of all organizations, the NUPW making proposals that would substantially require that which we do not have: time! A referendum on salary cuts? Which couples with our point about a lack of urgency.
We appreciate that the union must represent “the interests” of its members –– at least, appear to do so. But truthfully, some of its proposals suck. How does the NUPW come to recommend the Government’s sending home people who have served 33 1/3 years and are over 55 years old, knowing that along with a pension of half their regular monthly salary they are each entitled to 25 months of gross pay as gratuity.
How does this ludicrously large payout per retired person save the Government money or help keep other public sector jobs?
It seems that as free as we are to make our input into the alternative measures to get our economy straight again, most of us do not have a better plan than the Government’s –– painful as it may be.
Resource-poor as we are, we haven’t any more time for the grandiloquence and mostly balderdash.
It is time for the Government to act. And if it must be ultimately the martyr for putting Barbados back on a strong footing, so be it!