The Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme should not be seen as a bitter potion which Barbadians must drink and be done with.
Instead, Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, wants the International Monetary Fund-approved programme to be seen more like a lifestyle change, which would lead to the country’s sustained economic health. In an interview with Barbados TODAY Straughn expressed concern that persons had become so pre-occupied with getting BERT over and done with that they were missing the opportunity to embrace the changes and mindset necessary to sustain the country’s economic well-being to be ushered in by the programme.
“Given that we have averted the prospect of devaluing the dollar, which was a critical issue from the beginning, we are pretty much safe with respect to that. As it relates to going forward, we are trying to instill the fact that there needs to be continuity for improvement,” said, Straughn, who called for yearly revisions of the public sector to ensure that it was up-to-date and fit for purpose
“I don’t think it is case of breathing a sigh of relief and saying that the worst is over. We have to be committed to improving and fine-tuning the process internally so that we can deliver high-quality public service consistently. So, in that context, every year we must be committed to reviewing the process to make sure our delivery is better. That is the mindset that we must transition to,” he added.
However, the minister revealed that by the end of this year, this country’s taxpayers would see much more benefits for their sacrifices under the initial stages of the BERT programme.
“We are clearly well into phase 2 of the process, which will run until the end of March. Additionally, we started some phase 3 elements, such as restructuring the larger state-owned enterprises simultaneously with the second phase of the BERT programme. The critical thing in these initial exercises is to make sure that Government is right-sized to deliver goods and services that we are asking people to pay taxes for. So, for taxpayers in general, over the course of the next 12 months we anticipate that on the macro side, the Government should be in a position to ensure that when people pay taxes, the various mandates of the statutory bodies are in place,” said Straughn.
He explained that during the course of the next 12 months there would still be some growing pains under the programme, which has already resulted in significant layoffs in the public service. However, he noted that the indicators suggest that Government took the right decisions thus far on the macro level.
“Decisions such as the removal of the NSRL [National Social Responsibility Levy] were certainly justified because this would have impacted on every part of the pricing mechanism for most businesses. The only concern is that over the course of time we would expect to see lowering of prices in general and we have seen through the retail price index that prices have been coming down across the board. This is important particularly in the context of Government’s decision to lower the convergence of the corporate tax on the domestic side,” he explained.