Two reports this week from two international bodies are cause for concern if not total alarm.
First came word out of Brussels that Barbados and other regional countries were not taking advantage of the development assistance afforded them, at a time when grant financing is hard to come by and we really need all the financial support we can get.
“If our institutions and organizations that are to perform are not doing that in an adequate way then there is no point quarrelling about if we have money [or] if money is available,” warned Dr Patrick Gomes, Secretary General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states grouping.
“It [development funding] is there and we must make use of it,” he stressed, while pointing out that a number of African nations were adequately making use of funds allocated to them.
However, he told a group of visiting journalists this week that there was development support, which was agreed to as far back in 2013, that Barbados and other Caribbean states simply had not taken advantage of.
He also lamented that the Caribbean as a whole was “still sleeping” on the £346 million Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme provided under the 11th European Development Fund for the 2014-2020 period, even after the ACP “fought” to get the amount up from an initial £200 million.
As for Barbados, the Guyana-born Gomes stopped short of getting down on his knees and offering to help, but left absolutely no doubt that “we [ACP] are open to receiving how you are addressing your problem and support that.
“The Barbadian economy and what it has been facing and going through, we would like to participate in what is the national plan for recovery and transformation in areas in which we can make an input,” the ACP official said, while pointing out that even though the island was considered a high per capita income country, there were still some development funds from which it could benefit.
With that plea in mind, a similar offer was made just yesterday by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Though couched in diplomatic language, it was clear for all to see that the IMF – like the rest of us – is very concerned about the economic direction in which this country is headed and that if they had any say in the matter, we would urgently change the course we are on before all are made to suck salt under a courageous but ineffective home-grown fiscal adjustment programme that simply has not yielded the desired results.
In fact, based on the IMF’s latest assessment, it is fair to say that our economy has made one step forward, and two steps back, considering the current trajectory of our growth, which is projected to slow to less than one per cent again after registering 1.6 per cent growth in 2016 and a further two per cent acceleration in the first quarter of 2017.
The situation with our inflation is equally regressive, with the IMF currently warning that based on the measures announced by our Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in his last budget, we can expect a doubling of the 3.2 per cent rate by
the end of 2017, before things revert to more historical norm in 2018 and subsequent years.
That’s if all things remain equal. But then again, as the IMF points out, “there are important downside risks related to the increase in domestic and global uncertainty, including the impact of the Brexit on the British pound”.
Don’t get us wrong, we understand full well the trepidation that usually accompanies an IMF programme. For who could forget the bitter dose of medicine that they had previously served up for us back in the 1990s that may be no less easy to swallow right now given the dire state of our fiscal affairs?
In fact some have already sounded the warning that by knocking on the door of the international lender of last resort we will effectively surrender our precious currency and all else we hold dear, to international scrutiny.
But even if the IMF is a beast of a different colour these days, it is not difficult to understand why no one in the present Government has shown that they have the cojonas to take the country along the IMF path, as this may ultimately lead to political suicide.
With that said though, it must be asked, what’s the real alternative?
And should the majority be left hanging indefinitely in the balance, waiting for gains that may never come, all for the sake of a few sacred cows?
We think not!