Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) spokesman Ryan Straughn is questioning the Central Bank’s decision to release its first quarter economic report on Tuesday.
Straughn, an economist formerly employed by the Central Bank, said there were several reasons to be suspicious about the timing of the latest report, which he said was coming three weeks later than usual.
“It is extremely unfortunate that the Central Bank has chosen to act in this manner, in terms of releasing this information so late, because given that it is now May, they are going to be reporting for January to March,” the BLP candidate for Christ Church East Central pointed out.
Straughn, who had previously accused the Bank of “cooking the books”, told Barbados TODAY he felt it was more than a coincidence that the report was being released on the same day that Parliament was due to debate a no-confidence motion brought by the Opposition BLP against the Government.
“I think they are trying to hide the release in the moment of this no-confidence motion [since] a lot of people’s energy and attention would be on that [motion],” said Straughn.
He noted that Opposition Leader Mia Mottley was due to lead off tomorrow’s no-confidence debate in the House of Assembly.
However, he said, it was not likely the Central Bank’s report would be issued before tomorrow afternoon, which puts the Opposition at a significant disadvantage.
“In which case the country doesn’t have the opportunity to have a critical review of the actual data,” he further lamented, while complaining, “It smacks of some kind of collaboration.
“One might understand and even forgive some level of coordination between the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank, but when it gets to the parliamentary level and the release of information, contingent with what is going on politically, then there is something fundamentally wrong with that approach,” the BLP candidate said.
However, with a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to visit the island next week to conduct its latest Article 4 Consultation, Straughn suggested that the Freundel Stuart administration had “boxed” itself in, while warning that any such consultation with key sectors in the absence of the first quarter data would amount to “a diagnosis at your doctor [for which] the x-ray results are not available”.
He further insisted that there was no excuse for the late release of the first quarter report, cautioning that it could affect the usefulness of moving statistics, such as data on the island’s foreign reserves.
“You have two Deputy Governors, each with almost 40 years of experience, so if the Governor [Dr DeLisle Worrell] was not available, either of those two gentlemen certainly have the experience and expertise to be able to discuss the economic fortunes of the country,” Straughn argued.
Describing this late release of the country’s economic data as “unheard of in any democracy”, he said, “Confidence in the economy depends on having access to credible information and I don’t think it should be a situation where the Central Bank is now actively trying to manipulate the release of information to coincide with the function of Parliament in this case”.