The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) is warning Government against pursuing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment programme.
President Cedric Murrell said the umbrella grouping has already taken a decision not to support any such measure.
Late last month, former head of the Barbados Economic Society Ryan Straughn told a Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry function that Barbados should go the IMF route to help it out of its economic challenges.
But Murrell contends that the country already has a structural adjustment programme, albeit one which is home-grown, and he insisted the country has what it takes to find its way out of its problems on its own.
“We are disciplined enough in this country to understand what needs to be done. Public sector workers have not had a salary increase since 2009, and Barbados is still being run, though with some problems here and there.
“We have to find the solutions in this country on our own and I’m not saying that we depend on ourselves because we live in a world economy, but we cannot be running to other people to tell us what to do. CTUSAB certainly values the IMF. We meet with them; they give us their views on the economy. Some of those views are shared, some are not shared, but at the same time we know what has to be done in this country, and we just have to summon the will to do it,” the trade union leader said.
In October 1991, Barbados implemented an IMF programme in response to a sharp decline in foreign exchange reserves and the then administration’s inability to roll over maturing loans among other issues.
Back then, the adjustment programme focused on cutting the fiscal deficit through the implementation of a 50 per cent reduction in money spent by Government on capital projects, 10 per cent reduction in Government employment, and an eight per cent across-the-board cut in civil servants wages which was met by public protests.
Following a just-concluded visit by an IMF team to Barbados last week, Murrell was also adamant that devaluation of the Barbados dollar should not be an option.
“We cannot see how, in any way, that is going to help our economy. We have to continue the internal adjustment . . . We have to do whatever is necessary to ensure that there is growth, once again, in our economy. Only on Friday, I said, we are willing to examine aspects of moving to longer hours . . . to increase our productive capacity and hopefully our productivity, labour and otherwise.”
However, general secretary of the Unity Workers Union Caswell Franklyn insisted that Barbados was already under an IMF programme while pointing to a 2014 report by the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre (CARTAC).
“Everything that you see the Government doing is based on advice [from] elsewhere, so we are already under a IMF programme. An official programme only means that we might be able to get loans but that is all. We are already following the IMF dictates,” he said, while arguing that the current economic initiatives were not working because they were not well thought out.
In Franklyn’s estimation, some 6,000 public sector workers have been sent home between June 2013 and this year.
He said the figure includes drainage Workers who were not included in the list of the 3,000 retrenched this year under Government’s layoff programme.