Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur says he sees no way out of the current situation the Government finds itself in, other than to sell off some of its assets, in much the same way a cash poor but asset rich household would.
“I raise the point because I am hearing talk that the Government is about to privatize,” the sitting opposition member of parliament for St. Peter said in his submission on day three of the debate on the 2014-2015 Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure In The House of Assembly today.
Signaling that he was not against privatization, the senior politician urged the Freundel Stuart administration to come clean with the people of Barbados on its true position on the matter.
“I am not going to come in here and now seek to repudiate those things which I fundamentally believe. I’m too old for that. But it must not be dealt now by stealth. If the Government of Barbados has agreed with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that privatization must be part of the solution to stability . . . if it has already entered discussions with people, to discuss how it can sell assets to raise revenue to stop us from having to send home people, . . . if it believes that this is part of a viable and legitimate and lawful approach that draws upon previous experiences of government in this country, let us say so,” he said.
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler, presenting the Appropriations Bill on Monday, announced a new set of revenue-enhancing measures, including an increase in gasoline prices and the sale of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited to help ease the financial burden facing the Government.
Arthur today said the presentation by Sinckler was “twice as bad as the worst case scenario but at the same time it is ten times worst than what is necessary to stabilize the economy”.
He said that if Government had sought to follow fiscal prudence, rather than talking about borrowing $1.4 billion, it would be right now having a stable society which only required borrowing in the amount of $90 million a year.
“The deficit that the Minister now brings to the House is [one] that is as bad as when this period of fiscal adjustment started in the first instance . . . Something is fundamentally wrong with an economy when a system is no longer reacting to treatment. You have a very, very serious problem.
“The problem with this deficit anticipated this year [to be at] 60 per cent of GDP [Gross Domestic Product] is that it is three times higher than the one we said was historically necessary for stability . . .but it is even higher than the deficit which existed when all of these punitive measures were started by this Government.
“This country is not responding to treatment,” Arthur contended.