Last week, I downloaded 1984 by George Orwell and started to read it again, but it was almost as depressing as reading the reports about the Central Bank’s discussion forum last week. It is said ‘Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise’. I sometimes feel that I would prefer to live in a state of blissful ignorance, but that would only last for so long because, eventually, reality would intervene.
Reality is the true state of affairs that the Governor of the Central Bank shared publicly last week. We knew all along what was happening but perhaps we did not fully understand it. Let me speak for myself. For the first time, I was able to understand that the constant printing of money was to pay the shortfall in the Government’s wages bill. I also now understand how the printing of money erodes the foreign reserves. I also know that if we do not find ways to increase foreign investment or tourist expenditure, the foreign reserves will continue to decline.
What I do not understand is if Government is already unable to fund its payroll every month, how does it make sense for the parliamentarians’ pay cut to be reinstated and how can the Prime Minister even consider a double digit pay increase for public servants or any kind for that matter. I really don’t think I am being unreasonable to expect a hold to be put on any increases for public servants and, quite frankly, the Government is without conscience to approve the reinstatement of their salaries.
I am aware of cases in the private sector where people have not had increases for the same six years and have also been on a 20 per cent pay cut for several years. Is it therefore fair that the private sector must carry the burden of generating revenue to pay for an over-sized public sector? Every year, some new tax or revenue generating strategy is introduced to further burden the private sector.
Last year, we saw the introduction of the annual company return where you have to pay $100 to file the return and $10 a day for every day it is unfiled. I wonder what they do with all that paper. Who even looks at it? Is it used to cross-check with the Barbados Revenue Authority to see if the companies are filing and paying corporation tax? Or is it simply a ruse to get some money in the till to pay the public servants?
I suppose 2018 is looming large in the mind of the Government and Opposition, but I have to agree with former Prime Minister Owen Arthur who cautioned that stabilizing the economy is more important than preparing for an election. What is the point of agreeing to a pay increase (that is not affordable) for public servants to secure votes? They may get the votes but then the same public servants may not be able to buy much of anything with the increased salary if we have to devalue. It is ludicrous for the Government to keep saying that we are far from devaluing or we will not have to devalue but they are doing their utmost to hasten us towards devaluation. Seems a bit like double-think from 1984 again to me.
I so wish that Government would operate in a business-like manner. If you are in a job and you are not performing, you certainly do not get an increase or get back the money that you had to give up. Why should it be any different in Government? I am trying to be optimistic, but I do not see any bright ideas being offered, or if they are, they are falling on deaf ears. Several organizations and individuals are calling for privatization, but I suspect that would not go down well with voters and we have to remember that elections are just around the corner.
Owen Arthur has said that he is prepared to be part of a national consensus to address the ailing economy. I would like to see Barbadians put aside the partisan politics and come together for the good of the country. It is obvious that the Government is bankrupt of ideas or, perhaps, it is more a case of knowing what needs to be done, but not wanting to take the medicine to cure it.
So, Barbados is put on the altar of the party which, to me, is rather ironic because if the party were to get a third term, Members of Parliament might get their pension, but it might not be able to buy much, if there is even any money to pay it. I therefore cry out to all concerned Barbadians to let us put our collective heads together and try to find solutions for the issues that we are facing.
Surely we have reached such a serious time that who brings the solutions is far less important than how they will benefit all of us.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016), the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme.Contact her at email@example.com
Website www.donnaevery.com; www.facebook.com/DonnaEvery1)