Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines believes Barbados has what it takes to weather the current economic storm.
However, he has sought to caution the island that the Errol Barrow model of socioeconomic development, which includes free tertiary education is no longer sustainable.
His position is outlined in a detailed document entitled The Idea of Barbados, which he prepared back in February.
In the document, Gonsalves pays glowing tribute to Barrow as “the greatest leader that our CARICOM region has thrown up since universal adult suffrage”. He also states that “in national and regional impact and influence, Barrow compares with Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore”.
Gonsalves also makes the point that despite its problems, Barbados was still the most progressive country in all of CARICOM, adding that while other regional states – his own country included – aspire to being like Barbados, to date none had quite achieved its status.
However, he queried aloud whether “the socioeconomic model initiated by Errol Barrow, perfected by subsequent governments, and which came to maturation under Owen Arthur”, could be sustained in a period of prolonged global economic slowdown and continued economic uncertainty.
He went on to suggest that the answer was “no”, adding that “an appropriate strategic framework, balancing prudence and enterprise, coupled with specially targeted interventions” was likely to foster economic growth and fiscal consolidation.
In this vein, he said “a contribution from students to their own educational investment at the tertiary level is less likely to be opposed” and references to “Barrow’s legacy” or “Bajan’s birthright” would be seen as intellectually/practically untenable and demagogic”.
“I am grappling with similar considerations and policy/programmatic issues in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Unless we have intellectual clarity ourselves, the pandering foolishness emanating from some quarters, that ought to know better, would gain currency.
“The issues at stake for St Vincent and the Grenadines, and probably for Barbados, include efficient public expenditure; the containment of recurrent expenditure; efficacious debt management; optimal tax administration; economic growth; job and wealth creation; social cohesion and a reduction in social inequality.
“These are very challenging and not amenable to quick fixes, particularly in small, open, resource-challenged economies in the context of a global economic slowdown,” Gonsalves warned. “The chatterati, with their feet firmly planted in the air, have all the facile answers, but no responsibility for their invariable wrong-headedness.”
Please see full document on pages 14&15 of our digital ePaper – http://epaper.barbadostoday.bb.