Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) parliamentarian Jeffrey Bostic has sent a subliminal warning to his party colleagues that should they win the next election they will have a tough time fixing the economy.
In an attempt at criticizing the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration’s handling of the economy, Member of Parliament for the City Jeffrey Bostic also suggested that he had recognized the enormity of the task that awaits the next administration.
In his contribution Tuesday to the debate on the 2017/2018 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, Bostic said the country had sunk into a deep hole from which it would be difficult to emerge.
“[I do not] feel good about what I am seeing and hearing about our economy, and whoever takes over the Government will be faced with the major challenge of getting us out of this hole we have found ourselves in,” the BLP legislator said.
Barbados’ economy has been placed by International rating agency Moody’s on the same level as the Ukraine, Venezuela and Greece, one of Europe’s poorest states, and which had to be given a US$95 billion bailout in 2015 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European institutions.
However, with an election likely to be held this year, and with the governing Syriza lagging in the polls, the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras recently pushed through a pension boost and suspension of the Value Added Tax, much to the dismay of the IMF, to which former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has repeatedly advised the Freundel Stuart administration to turn for help.
The political situation in Greece is eerily similar to that of Barbados, where the DLP Government has been trailing in the polls, while battling a fiscal deficit, high debt and dwindling foreign reserves.
Despite complaining that it could not afford to even pay public servants – without the printing of money by the Central Bank – far less to give them a pay rise, the Stuart administration is proposing huge increases in allocations for its various social and political agencies next year, when general elections are due.
Chief among these is the Office of the Prime Minister, whose budget has been reduced from $167 million to $155 million for fiscal year 2017/2018, but is due to soar to $210 million in 2018/2019.
And there are others, including the Urban Development Commission, whose budget will rise from $6 million this year to a whopping $35.4 million for urban renewal in the Forward Estimates for 2018/2019; and the Rural Development Commission, which will get $10 million, up from $4.4 million, as part of an overall boost to the Ministry of Housing and Lands, whose allocation is set to increase to $138 million in fiscal 2018/2019, from $111 million.
The Ministry of Transport and Works will also get a steep increase – from $125 million for 2017/2018 to $205 million next year.
It was not immediately clear how the DLP Government intends to raise the additional funds it plans to spend next year.
However, like Greece, where the European Commission predicted that “investment is expected to take off in 2017”, the Stuart administration is counting on a number of projects getting off the ground this year to shore up foreign currency reserves and bring the economy back on track.
Yet, the IMF has concluded that Greece’s “growth prospects remain weak and subject to high downside risks”, very much like private sector groups here have said they were not holding their breath on the promised projects getting off the ground, and the international ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the economy.