The public justification for using White Oak was that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) thought that no Barbadian financial consultant was sufficiently competent to negotiate with our external creditors. That was shockingly unfair criticism of Barbadian financial services professionals. Having read the White Oak contract, the list of services should be within the competence of any accounting firm experienced in liquidation or judicial management.
The BLP administration has now confirmed that White Oak also advised on the local debt. Surely, advising on our local debts is well within the competence of our local consultants. If the Government thought that our local consultants lacked some experience, then they should have allowed them to participate in a joint-venture contractual arrangement. However, even that was not allowed.
After the Government disqualified all Barbadian accountants and economists, by publicly questioning their competence, why was there no objection by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB), or the Barbados Economics Society (BES)? Actually, there was a response. However, instead of defending the reputations of their members, the BES gave a fawning and grossly misleading assessment in my estimation of the BLP’s first year. Why are these professional associations assuming that defaulting on our debt was our only option when it was not?
Why are they not educating the public on the clear difference between debt restructuring and debt default? No one is objecting to debt restructuring. But for a country to default, when there is money available to pay creditors, is recklessly irresponsible and carelessly damaging to a country’s financial reputation. Why are our local financial professionals unwilling to provide an honest analysis of the current administration’s options?
To find the answers to these types of questions, we need to be reminded of Solutions Barbados’ unique experience. With the economic ruin of Barbados foreseen, Solutions Barbados designed an economic recovery and growth plan that provided approximately $1B in surplus during the first year, without increasing taxes, laying off persons, or requiring external funding.
It was to be done by facilitating the international competitiveness of Barbados. The method included: removing the excessive wastage and inefficiency costs of public services by properly managing them; eliminating the corruption costs; depoliticising the public service by promoting public workers on merit alone; and reducing taxes. Using the actual government expenditures and revenues, the plan gave the predicted surplus. It was also independently favourably reviewed by a Chartered Accountant.
We appealed to the national associations of accountants, economists, bankers, and commerce to honestly evaluate our economic growth plan, and inform the public of their findings, but they would not. The BLP then publicly stated that they would never share their economic plans with any of them, and they cowered, and then renewed their determination not to review ours.
If journalists become politically compromised, then political leaders know that they can say and do anything, and always be guaranteed fawning coverage. If the media fails in this manner, professional associations must assume the role of educating the public. If professional associations become politicised, then the public is left defenceless against the political wolves.
Professionals who mislead the public with politically biased advice, sell their professional integrity cheaply. They may be repaid with invitations to parties for some free food. Those who tell some whoppers for their party may get appointed to a board or the Senate, but that is the most that they can ever hope for.
Political leaders know that politically compromised professionals who shield them from scrutiny, can never be trusted to give honest professional advice – ever. They certainly cannot be trusted anywhere near any important contracts where unbiased advice is critical.
The current administration seems assured that they can publicly question the professional competence of Barbadian consultants and be assured of their absolute loyalty. Our financial consultants seem to possess a rare internal fortitude that allows them to be publicly slapped about with contempt and then respond by pitiably grovelling for an affirming pat on the head from their slappers.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at [email protected]