Leader of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Mia Mottley says she is not afraid to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if that is what is required to turn the ailing Barbados economy around.
Unveiling her party’s manifesto at Kingsland, Christ Church last night ahead of the May 24 general elections, Mottley, who is confident of winning, said while such a decision could only be made after an assessment of the true state of the economy, she was prepared to make the tough call if she had to.
“I said it before that we would do whatever is necessary, that is legal and moral, to rescue this country. Does that mean going to the IMF? It may, we don’t know. But when we get the results in the first few days [of taking office], we will be able to make the judgement,” said Mottley, who went on to promise to release the IMF’s Article IV report on Barbados, which the Freundel Stuart administration has kept from public view.
The BLP leader pointed out that Barbados had gone to the IMF before, noting that each time it had done so, the economy rebounded.
“The IMF was set up for purposes such as this and that is why you heard [former Prime Minister] Owen Arthur in Parliament months ago talking about it; that is why you heard of Tom Adams going in 1981 and Erskine Sandiford going to the Fund and each time, Barbados came out of it. The IMF is not the only way, but it allows us the confidence to deal with partners and capital markets,” Mottley explained.
She argued that the only reason that Prime Minister Stuart had not gone to the IMF months ago was because he was afraid of how history would remember him.
In her more than one-hour long address to a massive crowd of BLP supporters, Mottley said that if elected, whatever decision was taken by her Government, the average Barbadian would be kept in the loop every step of the way.
“I have not come to lie to the people of Barbados, I have come to talk to you and with you . . . . All that we have seen is that Freundel Stuart would do anything to be able to say that, ‘I did not go to the IMF. I did not carry Barbados to the IMF,’” said Mottley.
However, she contended that Stuart had “carried Barbados to the bottom”.
“He [Stuart] has left us exposed to the elements and the only entity established in the world to deal with what he has given us, an ailment and disease, is the entity called the International Monetary Fund.
“Do not be fooled. I cannot tell you, ‘yes [I will go the IMF]’ from this platform, but I tell you that I am not afraid of going there if that is what we must do,” Mottley stressed.
It was the clearest position given by the BLP to date on the IMF, which remains a controversial topic for Barbadians who still remember the bitter medicine dished out to them in the early 1990s after the then Sandiford-led DLP administration went the way of the Washington-based lending agency at the height of national austerity. It was felt that the tough measures, including an eight per cent cut in civil servants’ salaries, eventually cost the DLP the Government.
Barbados now finds itself in a similar position with its foreign reserves at a two decade low, the economy in deficit and the country’s national debt in excess of 100 per cent of gross domestic product.
With the situation as it stands, several economists, including Arthur, have been urging Government to seek IMF assistance, but the Stuart administration, cognizant of the possible political fallout, has been refusing to budge.
However, on the eve of elections, Mottley has made clear where she stands on the matter.