The Barbados economy is in dire need of emergency surgery to keep it alive, says Opposition Barbados Labour Party Senator Dr Jerome Walcott.
Speaking in the Senate this afternoon on the 2017/2018 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, the medical doctor painted a gloomy picture of the state of affairs, warning if corrective action were not taken urgently, the economy could collapse.
“The Barbados economy is now in a most precarious position since we became an independent nation. The foreign reserves are less than half what they were in 2009, the national debt is almost double what it was then, our economy is smaller [and] the printing of money by the Central Bank is almost scandalous. It is absolutely clear that poor policy choices and indecisiveness are responsible for where we are as a country,” Dr Walcott said.
“The Barbados economy is akin to a patient who needs emergency surgery to save his or her life. And . . . rather than taking decisive action and doing what is necessary, we are prescribing bed rest – continue as it is, continue the status quo.”
Without providing details, the former Minister of Health accused the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) of engaging in “distractions, DLP alternate facts, denial and deception” relating to the state of the economy instead of taking the necessary action to bring it back on track.
Stating that “the horse has already bolted”, Dr Walcott said the DLP administration had ignored expert advice over the years and must now face the Barbadian public with answers to a number of questions.
“What will a government that is notably slow on implementation now do? How will fiscal stability be now obtained? How will this deficit be further reduced? Tell us, we are waiting to hear, we need to hear.
“How will you go about expenditure reduction so that it is rational, so that it is targeted, so that it is strategic, so that it is economic and certain that it is not political?”
Contending that Government was addicted to spending what it did not have, Dr Walcott said besides the need to rein in expenditure, the administration ought to address pressing issues, such as housing and bad roads.
He also wanted to know how the administration planned to pay the millions of dollars it owed in arrears to a number of individuals and local entities, including the University of the West Indies and the National Insurance Scheme.
“The problem is simple. We have a situation where a government acted too late, made bad policy decisions, focused on increasing taxation with no real growth strategy and the whole thing has failed. You had the 18-month plans, the sacrifices that were made, the austerity measures have been introduced and the cash flow and economic crisis continue,” he complained, while describing the amount allocated to the cash-strapped Transport Board for the 2017/2018 financial year as “ridiculous” and “woefully inadequate”.
He also took issue with the amounts allocated to other vital institutions including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Sanitation Services Authority, saying there were simply not enough.