Over three years ago, I happened to read the IMF reports for Barbados and noticed that we were facing certain economic ruin. The IMF warned us to never let our debts exceed 40 per cent of what we produce annually (GDP). The BLP took us past this 40 per cent ceiling 20 years ago, to an irresponsible [level] over 90 per cent of GDP. The DLP has taken us to over 150 per cent of GDP or over $14 billion in debt. Our children are not prepared to pay these debts.
The two established political parties appeared to be blindly following their development philosophies that used to benefit Barbados in the past but are now harmful to [our country]. They have finally brought us to where Guyana and Jamaica were, just before their dollars were devalued. Their only remaining option is to surrender Barbados to a most severe IMF austerity program because of their proven financial indiscipline.
With our national debt at 150 per cent GDP and being out of all good options, we can expect our dollar to devalue, taxes to increase significantly, and everyone who is paying a house mortgage to lose their house within three years unless they are earning foreign currency.
With this result being foreseen from Guyana’s and Jamaica’s experience with the IMF, we designed and published the only non-austerity plan to restore Barbados’ economy. It has been independently assessed to allow Barbados to achieve a surplus in revenues during our first year – something that our politicians accidentally achieved only once in the past 52 years of our independence. This can be accomplished without going to the IMF, laying off a single public worker, or reducing their salaries. It can also be achieved while abolishing VAT and land tax since it does not require spending additional amounts on wastage and corrupt practices. However, neither political party was willing to discuss our plans.
Before we are forced to walk around the ruin that was once Barbados, it is important that voters be given a fair opportunity to decide what type of Barbados they wish for themselves and their children.
After two decades of trying, I have found that lobbying for change is ineffective for those not politically connected. The only other legitimate method of improving Government services is to ask the public to allow us to manage the national economy on their behalf and make the necessary improvements to their benefit. That is why Solutions Barbados was formed on 1 July 2015.
Solutions Barbados is a group of competent men and women who treasure their reputations but care too much to see Barbados fail. However, we are painfully aware that our politicians of the past simply repeated what the people wanted to hear for the sole purpose of getting elected. While those political games could be played in the past, they should not be risked with a country on the brink of economic ruin.
During every public interview that we gave when Solutions Barbados was launched, we were asked a similar question: “Since politicians have lied to us over the past 50 years, how can your candidates be held accountable?” Our answer remained the same. Every candidate must sign a contract where they agree to pay a severe financial penalty if they vote against specific policies that we promised Barbadians would protect them from certain economic ruin.
We invited and continue to invite any registered charity in Barbados to be a beneficiary of the financial penalty. Over the past three years, many potential candidates have stumbled at this contract requirement. However, given the disastrous consequences for Barbadians if our policies are not implemented, it is important that Barbadians have some confidence that we have a high standard of integrity and accountability.
Since many of our candidates owned businesses and were accustomed to having their own way, we all had to learn to accept the shared interests of the group and not just our own. Therefore, voting was encouraged with a simple majority deciding any decision, so that we could learn to operate as an accountable group.
When Solutions Barbados was formed almost three years ago, I made all the decisions. As members joined the group, I willingly and happily relinquished control to the point where I now have only a single vote. Approximately two weeks ago, several candidates requested a review of a clause in their contracts. After one week of passionate discussion, we voted to remain accountable through the provisions of an effective contract.
(Grenville Phillips II is the president of Walbrent College who has trained over 1,000 late-learners across the Caribbean region. He is also the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached atNextParty246@gmail.com)