“I tremble for my country!”
This was former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Owen Arthur’s response to a suggestion by one of Government’s lead economic spokesmen that the Barbados dollar has no real value to speak of.
Addressing a political meeting of the ruling Democratic Labour Party last weekend, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs Senator Jepter Ince, while shrugging off recent talk of a monetary devaluation, argued that no value could be applied to the Barbados dollar since it was not recognized internationally.
“You cannot devalue anything that has no value,” Ince asserted, adding, “I cannot travel with Barbados dollars when I go to the United States.”
However, Ince’s comments almost knocked Arthur off his feet.
In fact, the former leader admitted to being quite shaken by the “contemplation that a person who can give of such perfect and profound ignorance” was occupying a place at the centre of Government and in the Chris Sinckler-led Ministry of Finance as he went on to pour cold water on the suggestion that the Barbados dollar was worthless.
“What he is trying to say is that the dollar cannot be converted. Of course the dollar can’t be converted easily. You can’t go and convert Barbados dollars easily so into US currency, but it has a value,” Arthur stressed.
“The value is two to one, and it has been so from 1970 something,” he stressed while taking a pot shot at Ince, who he said had gone on record once “as not knowing the difference between the fiscal deficit and a physical deficit and has referred to the fiscal deficit as a physical deficit.
“It really means that any salary being paid to Mr Jepter Ince is a cost overrun,” Arthur continued, while insisting that “it is a staggering ignorance that somebody does not know that the Barbados dollar is valued at two to one US.
“Lord man! You can now better begin to understand why this country is in such great peril; that somebody at the centre of Government can be so profoundly ignorant about financial affairs, but be in the Ministry of Finance.”
During his address to the DLP meeting on Sunday at the Princess Margaret School, Ince had attacked Arthur for suggesting that Government should enter into a formal arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying it was evident that the former prime minister had a “hidden agenda”.
“So when he says to us go to the IMF and get funding, he knows very well that you only go the IMF when you have balance of payment problems . . . . When you cannot meet your foreign reserves requirement is when you go to the IMF. The IMF doesn’t give you no money for any infrastructure development,” Ince warned.
Asked to respond to those charges, Arthur said: “I’m not even going to go there”.
However, he went as far as to call for Ince’s head over his latest pronouncements on the Barbados dollar.
“For me, it would have been a dismissible offence,” he told Barbados TODAY, while also recommending that the parliamentary secretary be made to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
“I don’t want to libel him, but it may be discovered that he may be in the wrong Government institution,” Arthur added.