Next Tuesday Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler will stride across the yard of Parliament armed with the all important Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals.
No doubt Barbadians are anxiously awaiting the measures, which will impact their everyday lives be it with trepidation or jubilation.
It is an open secret that the Barbados economy is in peril. Over the last few months, virtually every analysis from the economic experts at home and abroad has been clear- the country sick, the country ain’t well. We have been warned to expect bitter medicine.
As recent as two weeks ago, Minister Sinckler himself acknowledged that the overall situation was far from satisfactory, though he maintained that the country was on the right fiscal path.
All the while though, the calls for the country to seek an urgent helping hand from the International Monetary Fund have been growing louder and louder,
Against this backdrop, Sinckler served early notice that the looming general election will not have any bearing on his financial package and therefore none should expect any major giveaways.
“You can’t give away what you don’t have.
“We are a responsible Government and we will do what circumstances dictate in the environment that we are in,” he told this media house.
It’s anyone guess what the minister’s caution portends for citizens feeling the pinch of a prolonged economic downturn in every way.
Yet it’s not hard to guess.
The Central Bank’s report on economic performance for the first quarter warned of the need for further “belt tightening”, amid lingering concerns about the state of the island’s foreign reserves that were said to have risen slightly from $681 million last December to $705.4 million at the end of March this year – still below the 12 weeks’ benchmark.
And even with economic growth in the order of two per cent for the period, the spiralling fiscal deficit maintains a crippling stranglehold, with data showing the debt at an estimated six per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), higher than the projected 5.8 per cent.
The situation certainly does not invite any stakeholder be it worker, household, or business to make a wish list. And while for most that would simply add up to relief, clearly Sinckler has no choice but to tread cautiously.
What Barbados needs from the Minister of Finance on Tuesday is a credible, realistic, sustainable plan to stimulate economic activity, reduce spending, increase revenue, restore growth and build confidence to position Barbados in this new dynamic global environment.
We do not need another grandiose speech, a lecture on what the former Barbados Labour Party did not achieve during its 14 years of prosperity, or a recap of the punishing effects of the 2007 global recession.
We do not need bells and whistles and salacious charges hurled across the House.
What we need is a frank update on the current state of affairs and the onus is on the Government to utilize the full three days of debate to set a clear agenda of how it intends to breathe life into a dying economy.
Equally, the Opposition has the duty of not only probing and pushing to ensure the Democratic Labour Party gets it right in the interest of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable, but it must too present alternative medicine to ease the pain.
What really matters, are measures that affect Barbados’ path over the longer term – decisive action that will determine whether we remain on a slippery slope to disaster or whether we begin the upward climb to light at the end of this dark tunnel.
Crafting a budget is one of the most important tasks a government performs and at the very least, a sound budget will inspire all Barbadians to get down to the business of lifting our beloved island from the doldrums.