If you managed to have caught sight of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler recently, you could hardly have missed that he has shed quite a bit of weight.
From a quite portly figure, the goodly minister –– and we hope he would not hold it against us for saying so –– he is now literally half the man he used to be, having worked off in our estimation well over 70 pounds, by way of a strict diet plan and daily exercise regimen.
Too bad, the Government’s wage bill doesn’t seem to be headed in the same direction as Mr Sinckler’s pants size.
Had that been the case, the economy could have passed the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) fitness test by now, and instead of our now daily refrain “De country sick”, we would all be preparing to ushering in Crop Over 2015 on a completely different RPB note, based on the Issues Of The Day, and we would know who our heroes are –– again, based on the Issues Of The Day.
Instead, we are currently being bombarded with news that our beloved island is now at the bottom of the regional economic totem pole –– something else to make our founding father Errol Barrow roll over in uncomfortable eternal slumber, having already been tossing and turning over his party’s recent abandonment of his legacy of free tertiary education.
The unflattering news has come in the form of the IMF’s latest Regional Economic Outlook For The Western Hemisphere, which suggests that in terms of growth projections, Barbados is currently lagging behind impoverished Haiti and Guyana of all places, countries, which hitherto, could not be mentioned in the same economic sentence as us, without inciting our immediate dismissal.
However, the reality, whether we like it or not, is that in 2015, Haitians and Guyanese have every reason to look down on us with just as much conceited scorn, based on the IMF’s latest growth projections, which, even after revision still put us way behind Haiti at 3.3 per cent and Guyana at 3.8 in terms.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart need not be persuaded by these figures, but surely there can be no disputing the fact, which was recently emphasized by the IMF at the end of its recent mission, that the Government’s wage bill, which is said to be in the region of $1 billion, is simply too high.
“Our key message is that this is the time to push the reform because when you have growth, it makes that job much easier. The wage bill, not so much the number of people, but how much they spend on wages, is one of the highest in the Caribbean. They started reducing that, but over a long period it will be good to get that down to make the economy work more efficiently,” the IMF mission chief told Barbados TODAY at the conclusion of the visit.
“We definitely advise that they need to lower the wage bill further to levels that it was in the mid-2000s and more in line with regional averages,” she stressed.
This brings us to last week’s crippling Transport Board drivers’ strike, the cause of which is inexcusable, given the sorry state of the Government’s finances and the decision to send home over 3,000 public servants last year.
We have been told that the strike was triggered by the decision of one top official to hire his niece on contract to a clerical position, even with the negotiations still ongoing between the Transport Board and the union on the recent retrenchments.
How reckless can one be!
We believe the minister in charge of the Transport Board owes this country a full explanation of how such could be allowed to take place under his watch, especially coming as it has on the heels of the National Conservation Commission fiasco that similarly threatened to push this Government over the brink.
Have these guys not learnt anything?
Or is it because of the Government’s slender majority it is therefore taken to be unlikely any heads will roll?
Whatever the reason, it is unconscionable, to say the least, that any ministry would still be engaging in wasteful and selfish behaviour.
While everybody may hit Chris at this stage, it is our Prime Minister who ultimately will have to bite the bullet and ensure that members of Government are held to account. Else, heaven help us all!