Opposition Leader Mia Mottley is calling on the Freundel Stuart administration to tell Barbadians whether it intends to enter a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and how it plans to rebuild the foreign exchange reserve.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader cited recent statements at the governing Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) headquarters suggesting that an IMF deal would be good for Barbados, as her reason for demanding clarity on the matter.
Following Government’s steadfast position last year that it would not seek a deal with the international lending agency, talk show host Maureen Holder last week suggested at the DLP headquarters that striking such a deal would not be bad for the island.
While expressing caution at a similar DLP forum last December, Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank Board of Governors Justin Robinson had said there were advantages for Barbados in an IMF deal.
“If we are not going there, just say we are not going there,” Mottley said in Parliament, adding that the administration should come clean on the matter even, “if we are going, and you are now in the business of trying to make up your mind, because there has been a change in circumstances because of the [issues of] foreign exchange, because of the decline in reserves”.
Mottley’s call on Government came during her contribution to the debate on the Banks Tax on Assets Bill that provides for the imposition of a tax on the domestic assets of banks, and for related matters.
The Opposition Leader said debate on this measure had provided Stuart and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler with an opportunity to speak to the nation on the financial circumstances of Barbados.
“It is now time to consider other things beyond this homegrown programme. Do we need an injection [of finance], and do we need further adjustment as the Governor of the Central Bank told us on the 3rd of January? Do we need to take further protective action?” she asked.
The BLP leader made reference to an admission by Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr Delisle Worrell on January 3 this year that since 2013 the country has been unable to maintain a favourable balance between the outflow and inflow of foreign currency.
She further noted that Worrell had stated that Government was committed to a further reduction in the fiscal deficit in order to relieve pressure on the foreign exchange reserves.
The Member of Parliament for St Michael North East claimed Barbadians, especially businesses, were unable to plan effectively because of the absence of Government statements on the repeated economic downgrades by lending agencies and the temporary halt in trade in the Barbados dollar by Guyana.
“What worries us is that there continues to be daily reports from members of the business community about the queuing for foreign exchange.
“What we have now is a situation where persons seeking to trade with Guyana have now to find hard currency at the very time that neither the Minister of Finance nor the Governor of the Central Bank [is giving] hard currency, namely US dollars, to pay for their goods and services that they are trading with Guyana.”
In this context, Mottley pleaded with both Stuart and Sinckler to engage the Opposition and the people of Barbados on these issues.
“I’m begging the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister to talk to the country soon, consult with the Opposition. We are not enemies of the state. We are sworn to protect this country.
“On behalf of the people of this nation, for God’s sake, do what is right and talk to Bajans, and stop pushing it on the backburner,” she stressed.
Sinckler later made it “abundantly clear” Government had no intention of entering into a loan agreement with the IMF.
“I have not given anybody in my ministry nor the Central Bank instructions to engage with the IMF either formally or informally for any IMF programme for Barbados. Let me make that abundantly clear,” he told Parliament. (GA)