Over the past few weeks, we have been seeing and smelling one thing, and hearing quite another from the lips of our Government officials when it comes to the embarrassing stink that now seems to be a permanent feature of life along the south coast.
To make matters worse, the Americans stepped in and did their own water tests, which the ruling Democratic Labour Party would have us believe are as credible as anything you would ever hear about Hillary Clinton or former US president Barack Obama on the Republican-skewed television network Fox News.
While we sincerely hope and pray for our collective sakes that the situation along the Hastings/Worthing stretch will soon be permanently remedied, we feel the need to fact check our Prime Minister on some of his most recent public utterances to do with the general economic well-being of our island state, which flies in the face of what many credible economists have been saying.
It was just last week that Mr Stuart, in addressing the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, offered hope of a much-needed economic turnaround, as he reported that the worrying national deficit was finally on the decline, to our collective sighs of relief.
In fact, following nearly a decade of severe economic challenges, Mr Stuart said he was confident the fiscal deficit was “on the decline”, and, according to his advice, “in a sizeable way”.
The Prime Minister also told members of the business community that the highly anticipated Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan 2018, which is due to be laid in Parliament shortly, would return the economy to “a path of steady state equilibrium with a view to propelling the economy to the pre-crisis growth level of three per cent on average”.
At the same time, Mr Stuart said he was expecting construction of the ill-fated and legally entrapped Hyatt Centric Hotel to commence this year, as he assured the private sector meeting, which was attended by a number of diplomats and Government ministers, that Government would embark on more than $100 million in tourism related projects this year.
Though this was the kind of news we had all been hoping for, it appeared to come so suddenly and conveniently in the lead up to general elections, given all that the respected economists have said, and based on the obvious struggles of the business community and ordinary residents in the face of the dreaded National Social Responsibility Levy and the like.
But given our Prime Minister’s optimism, for the moment at least, the National Union of Public Workers’ demands for a 23 per cent pay hike and a $60 million lump sum payment for public servants did not seem so ridiculous after all.
At least not until yesterday, when Trinidadian economist Marla Dukharan took hold of the state’s blinkers and opened our eyes to the fact that our international reserves had fallen to an all time low of $482 million, or just under eight weeks of import cover, as at November last year.
In fact, she warned, both the national economy and our precious dollar were still very much precariously poised with one of the main drivers of the precipitous drop in foreign reserves being “the extent of the Government deficit and the way in which it is financed – partly by Central Bank financing or printing of Barbados dollars.
“This is evidenced by the fact that the Barbados dollar monetary base expanded five per cent year on year in November 2017, when its ratio to international reserves stood at 10:1 indicative of the pressure on the exchange rate,” Dukharan cautioned.
She also pointed out that the Central Bank’s financing of Government continued unabated despite numerous warnings, with the bank’s holdings in Central Government moving from 55 per cent to 77 per cent as at November 2017.
Well! Well! Well!
Could it be further evidence as Opposition Leader Mia Mottley suggested this week that “the Prime Minister’s memory is slipping?” Or are his advisors to blame? Could the entire Government be living in a fool’s paradise?
We wait with bated breath to hear the newly-appointed Central Bank Governor Dr Cleviston Haynes’ assessment tomorrow. Will he agree with his predecessor Dr DeLisle Worrell that things are “dire”? Or will he have us believe, as Mr Kellman would, that Ms Dukharan’s mouthings are “the best advertisement ever” that Government could get to show that the Trinidadians have tried and tasted the Barbados economy.
We sincerely hope not!