If Prime Minister Mia Mottley had her way Barbados’ programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be no longer than nine months.
As she disclosed that the IMF mission would return to the island this week to continue negotiations, Mottley told the Barbados Workers Union 77th Annual Delegation Conference yesterday, “I pray that it will not take us eight to nine months to do what we have to do. But I am equally conscious that we are only one of the parties at the table”.
The IMF team, led by Bert van Selm, had concluded its last visit to Barbados on June 8.
During that visit, preliminary discussions were held on the key challenges faced by the Government, including the country’s very low level of international reserves, its unsustainable debt, and the need to develop an economic plan designed to address current imbalances and create the conditions for sustained broad-based growth.
Prime Minister Mottley acknowledged that her Government faced a tall order as it embarked on the mission “ to work out how we are going to transform our Government and transform our nation.”
Charging that the country had been engaged in “political cosmetology,” she detailed the financial mess of state-owned enterprises to the audience that included veteran trade unionist and former general secretary of the Barbados Workers Union Sir Roy Trotman; General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers Roslyn Smith; President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union Mary Redman; members of Cabinet and Leader of the Opposition Joseph Atherley.
“We have been engaged in a form of political cosmetology . . . what we therefore have to do and what we have done is insist that we must confront the true cost of Government. You cannot go forward if we do not understand the true cost of what Government has become in this country”, Mottley said.
She disclosed that numerous state institutions were operating with half the required expenditure needed, with entities such as the Transport Board needing $80 million to run their operations instead of $22 million.
Signalling that it would not be business as usual, Mottley, who is also Finance Minister, said Government had moved to get out of the $100 million contracts for the construction of new desalination plants that were signed by the former Democratic Labour Party Government prior to the general election.
“I have signaled that all parties must come back to the table to re-negotiate in interest of this nation . . . We have managed to get other parties to walk away from the contractual obligations of Berth Six at the Port and from the construction of a $500 million shipping agreement which we cannot and could not afford.”
Mottley also conceded that Government had heavy arrears, which she said, amounted to $1.9 million. She noted that $165 million was owed in compulsory land acquisition arrangements and $480 million in tax refunds to citizens.
She gave the assurance that her Government would clear its debts.
“The Government over the next four years will clear all the arrears of third parties through negotiations, settlements and staggered payments over the four-year period.
“The people of Barbados must never have a reputation of having a Government again that has not paid its bills to them or to third party institutions,” she stated.