Wednesday, April 17, 2024

BLP COLUMN – Economy still on skids


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A dour looking Governor of the Central Bank appeared on television on Tuesday’s Evening News with no words of comfort for Barbadians hoping for some sign of economic recovery. In fact, there are indications that things will get worse. More people are likely to lose their jobs and fluctuating oil prices may start to drive prices even higher.The Central Bank’s six-month report makes for depressing reading. Never before in our history has a Government been frozen into inaction in the way that this one has. At the very time that it should be doing all it can to breathe new life into our productive sectors to boost employment, government revenues and foreign exchange, the Government seems to have called a time out.At the very time that it should be straining every sinew to contain the current account deficit, it satisfies itself with a nip here and a tuck there. And make no mistake, these problems did not start this year. They had their genesis in 2008 when a baffling “wait and see” policy took root that crippled whatever momentum the country had left over from an outstanding 2007. The Government has put all of its eggs into a Medium Term Fiscal Strategy basket, which has at its core the accessing of hundreds of millions of dollars from the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank. Nothing has happened to allow us to borrow from the World Bank. The plan is unrealistic in many respects and is unlikely to be implemented as designed.Our Political Leader and Shadow Minister of Finance, Mia Mottley, has been resolute and repetitive in her call to the Government to act and act now. Somebody needs to turn up the hearing aid.What will it take for some confidence and creativity to return to the management of our country’s economic affairs? Will we stumble through Crop-Over into Independence celebrations and on to Christmas in the hope that more tourists will come? Is a mid-summer Budget now too much to hope for? Are we pinning all our hopes on the re-start of the Four Seasons Project?Week by week businesses are failing and properties going into foreclosure. The number of people losing their jobs continues to rise with little hope of any improvement in the job market in the near future. Activity in the international business sector is half what it was last year. The construction industry has been hit by the double whammy of few private developments and even fewer Government projects. The sugar industry is slowly grinding to a halt and if we are not careful, extinction. Tourism is down, despite the World T20 Championships, and manufacturing is no longer a factor.All of this and the Government still has champagne taste on mauby money. When is it going to admit that continued spending on entitlement programmes, which might be good for DLP candidates, are in danger of sinking the ship of state? And when, oh when will it start to take responsibility for our present state of affairs? Who will stop the rot?Ironically, during the same newscast, that the Central Bank Governor delivered the bad news, there was a piece from the CNN London correspondent entitled “Stop the blame game”. Barbadians have long since been tired of “it wasn’t me,” consigning it along with “wait and see” to the political rubbish heap.There is an air of hopelessness and inertia that has seized the Government’s management of our country’s economic affairs. It is almost as if it is overwhelmed by the task that lies ahead – unsure of what to do and when to do it.  We urge them to shake off the cloak of uncertainty, calm their fears and renew their focus on the solutions needed to return the country to prosperity. It is what Barbadians expect and deserve.•Beresford Leon Padmore is a pseudonym for the Barbados Labour Party.

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