Against the backdrop of leading Barbadian economists calling for Barbados to be enlisted in an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, a Government minister has lashed out at the financial organization.
Addressing a group of Caribbean educators at the Hilton Barbados Resort last night, Minister
of Education Ronald Jones accused the Washington-based financial institution of seeking to impose policies that would deny children of the region an education, and take away health services for the entire population.
He charged that the IMF’s programmes take money out of Caribbean territories “to pay back those who have raped this region”.
Jones was delivering remarks at the opening ceremony of the 48th Meeting of the Caribbean Examinations Council when he appeared to chide those calling for an IMF arrangement.
“In our region, there is too much bellyaching, too much beggar bowl mentality, waiting for somebody who never comes, unless they come dressed in a suit with an ‘I’, an ‘M’ and an ‘F’ – resplendent, yet failing,” he said.
Jones’ blistering attack on the lending agency stood in stark contrast to a call last week by former prime minister Owen Arthur, for Government to engage the international agency in a formal structural adjustment arrangement.
Arthur had pointed to a Barbados fiscal adjustment programme, done quietly with the IMF that, he said, amounted to a typical arrangement with the international organization. The economist added that because there was no formal agreement, Government was unable to benefit from soft loans that come with the package.
“Barbados has been carrying out a programme of fiscal consolidation and economic restructuring as prescribed by Article IV consultations with the Fund. It is essentially employing IMF type policies,” Arthur said as he delivered a lecture sponsored by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies and the St James South Constituency Council.
The former prime minister, who led the country for 14 years had said that while the Article IV recommendations did not call for an exchange rate adjustment, “they do, however, call for timely and effective implementation of the policies which the Government of Barbados agrees with the
Fund as being the best suited for the transformation of the economy”.
He said then that in going this route, “Barbados was essentially implementing an IMF style adjustment programme without having access to the IMF funding”.
Arthur said that among opportunities denied the country because of Government’s strategy, was the ability to capitalize on or leverage Barbados’ current quota in the IMF of US$130 million.
“Depending on the extent of the adjustment proposed, it could borrow between three to five times the quota. That is between US$390 million and US$650 million,” he said at the time.
In support of Barbados entering an IMF arrangement, Chairman Emeritus of Ernst and Young Caribbean Peter Boos had also declared last month that the Barbados economy was in crisis and the island was paying dearly for refusing to turn to the IMF for help.
“It is the thing to do, and I don’t think there is an alternative,” he said at the time.
Boos spoke of Barbados’ high debt, deteriorating infrastructure and the growing frustration over the difficulty in doing business here, and stressed that the road to economic recovery was long and hard, but the island could hardly avoid the IMF route.
However, Jones charged last night that IMF policies were “not to grow or to develop the region, but to ensure that at the end of the day you have enough left to pay back that which they say you’ve borrowed, but I say which they have historically taken”.
“Ask Jamaica, ask Guyana. Ask every single country who has dared to venture into the embrace, seeking support and seeking help, asking for assistance, so that Caribbean civilization can strive and grow,” he argued.
Jones contended that instead of getting the help they need, the Caribbean countries that embraced an IMF programme were met with painful demands.
“We’re told to attack our social services, our young people, education. We’re told to trim our so-called free health systems; cut back,” he said, adding that as a result of such programmes, “our children in school suffer because, somehow, they [IMF] don’t recognize that we have to educate our people”.