“A mistake of major proportions!”
That’s how former Prime Minister Owen Arthur today responded to yesterday’s announcement by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler that Central Bank Governor Dr Delisle Worrell’s contract has been renewed.
Speaking from his Bayview Hospital bed where he is currently recovering from a recent foot injury, Arthur told Barbados TODAY he felt duty bound to comment on the development, which he also said was deserving of “significant public comment”, based on the behaviour and performance of the Governor to date.
While stating that he was not in the business of criticising for criticising sake, Arthur, who is a former director of the Central Bank, described the most recent decision of the Governor not to hold press conferences for the past two economic quarters as “highly irresponsible to the point of trespassing dangerously on matters of discipline”. In fact, he deemed it a threat to Barbados’ democracy.
“We have become accustomed to a Central Bank [that is] well led, and I don’t believe that any previous Governor of the Central Bank would treat the media, and by extension the public, in this way, because we must depend on the media to give us information about our circumstances.
“This is outrageous!” Arthur said.
The former minister of finance further warned that the island was facing “a crisis of confidence” but seriously doubted that Dr Worrell could provide the “ray of hope” that it needs, given his role in the matter.
“Confidence is undermined when the Governor on core fundamental matters says one thing and the Minister of Finance has to say something else entirely, as happened when they both made conflicting statements over whether there was going to be a stimulus or a contraction,” Arthur pointed out.
“Confidence is undermined when a Governor of the Central Bank tells the country that [the economy] is stable and no alternative policies can and must be pursued, and then expects a serious society to willfully and gladly accept painful alternative policies,” he added.
The former prime minister, who is a trained economist, noted that under Sections 48 and 49 of the Central Bank Act, the role of the institution is to protect monetary stability. However, he charged that Dr Worrell, who is the principal architect of two documents on the Government’s medium term fiscal strategy, has been behaving more like “an overlord” than a Governor.
In fact, he warned that “if Barbados is facing an apocalypse, Dr Worrell is the chief horseman of our apocalypse”.
“I understand the invidious position in which the Minister of Finance may have found himself. Not to renew the Governor of the Central Bank’s contract may be interpreted in some quarters as admission by the Minister of Finance that his policies have failed, but given the state of our country, the Minister of Finance should be more concerned with substance rather than optics,” argued Arthur, who is totally against Dr Worrell’s re-appointment.
The former prime minister has publicly differed with Dr Worrell in the past on matters of economic policy and has called for his head on several occasions, most recently over the Governor’s declaration that the island should get rid of its main revenue earner, the Value Added Tax.
However, he made it clear that he did not have anyone in mind for the job, even though he expressed the view that there were enough people around with the “technical skill” who could easily provide the leadership that the Central Bank needs.
“I believe it has been without precedent in our country and is highly irresponsible to the point of trespassing dangerously on matters of discipline for Dr Worrell to have done recently what he did [in deciding] who is coming to his Press conferences and whether he is going to answer questions or not . . . And unless there is a significant change in [Dr Worrell’s] behaviour, and unless he is going to provide this country and the Government of Barbados with accurate information in a timely fashion and be prepared to be asked serious, searching questions from an anxious public which is concerned about the country’s circumstances, then there will be no ray of hope for the future,” Arthur said.
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