Thursday, April 25, 2024

It can’t be business as usual


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In managing any economy in a democratic state, the delivery of social services against a background of limited fiscal resources and fluctuating circumstances in countries from which one’s major foreign exchange earnings come is a veritable nightmare, countered only by the exercise of the highest skills in political economy.
Add to this reality the fact of a small, open, developing economy and the problems are multiplied; for what may be good for the management of the economy may well be bad politics. And politics always holds the trumps, or so it seems.
Given this backdrop, the debate on our country’s Annual Estimates begins tomorrow and the re-elected Freundel Stuart administration will have the opportunity to show that it has the key to solving so much of our economic trouble as it lies in our domestic capacity to do.
Many issues are on the table crying out for attention, but the need to stimulate growth on the domestic front must surely be a matter of the highest priority. Before the election, “steady as she goes” has been the mantra of the Government; and its touted ability to maintain employment in the public sector, with not a single civil servant being sent home, has been heralded during the election campaign as a major achievement in a volatile and hostile economic environment.
But it has been alleged that many jobs have been lost in the private sector, and whatever may have been the politics of the messages during the campaign, the public interest will require that something be done to assist in arresting the very troubling issue of loss of such jobs. Urgent action needs to be taken to correct this problem for in the final analysis, the duty and business of the private sector is to create jobs and to make profits which will provide the revenues on which Government depends for governance of the country and the development of social programmes.
A symbiotic relationship in which the hands of Government and the private sector must be clapping in unison is vital for our better governance; and the duty and business of the Government, indeed any government in a democracy, is to provide the appropriate environment in which the private sector, properly regulated, can make reasonable profits and provide decent work.
Stagnant or declining economies do not encourage growth or investment, neither do they create jobs and maintain profits, or generate confidence which is so necessary to every entrepreneurial risk-taker, and every government ought to have a vested interest in the viability of its private sector.
We await the debate on the Estimates to learn how these issues will be tackled, and it would be premature and unprincipled for anyone, least of all the Fourth Estate, to rush to judgment, but we must nevertheless say that it cannot be business as usual, and that some adjustments will have to be made.
We note that the Prime Minister has hinted that the administration may have to examine how it can help the vulnerable, in our midst, and that he has appointed Mr Donville Inniss, the Cabinet minister who is most identified with being a business man, to the ministry dealing with the offshore sector, Corporate Registry and other business-related matters.
This change may be due to the vagaries of politics, but it may also send a signal that the Government recognizes the critical need for a more efficient platform on which the private sector can do its business.
Whatever the reason, it cannot be other than beneficial for the relationship between Government and business that such a shift in ministerial allocations has been made. Nor can it be gainsaid that in appointing Mr Michael Lashley to the Ministry of Transport and Works that Mr Stuart has chosen the minister who in the last administration appeared to be the most action-oriented to tackle the social and fiscal aspects of a most critical department of Government.
We await an interesting debate!

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