Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has given firm warning that vigilance and discipline will be the watchwords of Government in the upcoming financial year.
This, as his administration puts measure in place to reach, and maintain a fiscal deficit set at a little over six per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, by the end of the next financial year.
“We face a deficit which we have to deal with . . . . In order for this to be achieved, it is going to call for enormous discipline on the part of the public servants . . . on the part of ministers of the Crown,. . . [and] enormous vigilance, particularly by our financial controllers and so on in the various Government departments.”
He said the situation would be monitored to ensure that the state’s expenditures “do not fly out of control”.
“If during the course of the year, there are programmes that we have to cut further, we will have to do that as long as no violence is done to the smooth and effective administration of the Government and the provision of the services which the people of Barbados expect and are entitled to expect, ”, he said as debate continued on the Appropriations Bill in the House of Assembly this evening.
In his over two-hour long, wide-ranging presentation, the prime minister called for a re-examination of the role of the state.
Drawing reference to comment made by one former Prime Minister, the late Sir Harold St John, who said that the Government could not wait on the private sector to lead growth and development, Stuart said: “That is not a criticism of the private sector of Barbados.
“Quite frankly, it is an explanation of the history of the private sector of Barbados which for the most part has been a retail-oriented private sector,” he explained.
“The state has to continue to perform the roles which it has been performing and to make sure that the great thrust forward for the most marginal, the most vulnerable, the most marginalized people in society, that their interests and their agenda concerns are pursued. In the area of public administration, therefore, we have had to face that reality.
“ . . . When we talk about a minimalist state, or a small state or the State steeping back and not competing with the private sector, let us understand the context within which we are speaking because the State has always had to lead risk-taking in Barbados.
“It has always had to go out front and set the pace if developments were going to take place in this country. So when we come to the Estimates of 2014-2015, that is the context in which we have to evaluate what the Government has been doing,” he said, adding that it was now faced with a serious set of challenges, which it had to confront.