We might well have done without Chris Sinckler’s much promoted up to date statement on the Barbados economy. He came with hardly anything fresh, and a very clear picture of what we already knew. And as to the clearer answers we were supposed to get, well, they undulated and meandered into genetically modified marijuana and perfume-scented pot!
Today’s press conference of the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs was more gimmick (to borrow Owen Arthur’s word) than gizmo.
Whatever the alleged rights and wrongs of Mr Sinckler’s handling of our national economy, there is this fundamental point to be made –– and accepted. It’s time to internalize the fact ourselves of the point of no going back, acknowledge the reality and take charge of the change to betterment.
Our current economic crisis offers a stark lesson in the wisdom of prudence and regular frugality, and in the folly of braggadocio. It offers as well a lesson in the good and value of living within one’s means, and the absurdity of coercion in the form of being committed to provide what is evidently not available.
Our Government’s planned job cuts may be most difficult to submit to or abide with, and may be nauseating even if swallowed willingly, but the alternatives being offered by the former quarrelling-cousins-returned-to-family the Barbados Workers Union and the National Union of public Workers are for the greater part a plaster covering a deep and perilously infected wound. These proposals, we insist, will not extricate us from the quandary and its resultant perplexity in which we now find ourselves.
So, on this point we are in agreement with Minister of International Business and Commerce Donville Inniss, stopping short of course of his pronouncement that the unions’ efforts are a “public relations” exercise. But the blunt truth is we do “need to ask candidly what are the stumbling blocks and remove them, whether fiscal or human resource”.
Indeed, turning a blind eye to the much needed critical structural revision of our economy will not make the mandatory reconstruction go away. And, the covering up of it with quite short-lived elixirs, for emotions’ sake, are far more likely to put us in circumstances unimaginatively worse.
And then who will take –– or share –– the blame?
A country continually encouraged not to live within its means is one doomed to the dump heap; and no amount of bamboozling with complicated economic and financial jargon by economist, political scientist or politician will efface this fact.
It cannot be gainsaid that the Freundel Stuart administration in its economic management in several ways –– influenced by not wanting to be trounced by a fallout as it is now experiencing and a likely defeat at the polls –– failed to face up to much of the reality governship demanded, and that it subsequently floundered.
To be fair to the Democratic Labour party Government though, whether the Member of parliament for St Lucy would accept it or not, the passing of former prime Minister David Thompson saw astute political management and economic direction going a-begging, with very little proactive practice, as the partisan politically bereaved mourned and agonized over a death we would have been better off without.
It would take a while for Mr Stuart and Mr Sinckler together to step into Mr Thompson’s shoes. The challenge was that with a world recession and its external forces bearing down on us, we did not have the luxury of that kind of time.
Simultaneously, here was a young brigade, hoping to be friends of all, leaving no one behind, and being no bearer of bad news –– if borrowing to pay wages and printing money would do the trick. We all know now what became of that, and where we are now. The dare is to accept it. We have come to the point of politically unpopular economic policy choices –– a stage all politicians in Government hate. If we are indeed to restore economic balance and confidence and reopen access to international funding, we cannot delay swallowing the bitter medicine.
It does not please the unions, understandably; and it is unfortunate one is already making veiled threats of industrial disruption. But for what sensible purpose and to what profitable end? And the utterances come immediately upon our referring to the maturity and soberness of the trade unions in these very trying times.
Very few of us delight in going to the dentist, but we visit him, or her, nonetheless for healthy teeth, gums and mouths. To do otherwise is to invite illnesses to the other parts of the body. We see the bigger picture, don’t we?
We are reputedly a proud and resilient people, and will survive come what may.
Let us not make ourselves a spectacle before the world with all this complaining, and moaning and groaning. Let us be free of the emotional entanglements, the stronger of us being our neighbours’ keepers at this time of reckoning.
Let us too hold our political leaders in the future to a national monetary policy suitable to and sustainable for our needs and challenges, growing from inside out, while living within our means. For if ever we shall come the way of this cursed crisis again, it could be the beginning of the end