Tuesday, April 23, 2024

EDITORIAL: We need to stick together


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The economic situation is clearly beginning to bite at the personal level and this is a matter of concern to all patriotic Barbadians.
Political divisions aside, our Prime Minister has called for all hands on deck and that should be a signal to all of us to put our shoulder to the wheel and pull the ship of state to safety.
The president of the bankers’ association has told us that loan delinquency is at an all-time high; that a normal delinquency rate of five per cent has now mushroomed to about 12 or 13 per cent for the last six months; and that some people are not servicing their loans at all. He said he has never seen it like this.
He describes it as a worrying trend, something with which we concur since Barbadians are well known for their creditworthiness. Their inability to pay their debts on time must be due to loss of jobs of the main breadwinner or some other consequence occasioned by the current domestic economic situation.
It matters little to the average home manager if the tough times are home-induced or externally driven. That is usually a matter better dealt with in the political arena, but hardship can be a very personal matter since it hits the citizen in his or her pocket and that is what matters. Hence we support the call for all hands on deck since the situation requires urgent amelioration, no matter how it may have been caused in the first place.
This is a crisis that cannot be solved easily by a divided country, especially with the political numbers so easily balanced in Parliament, and moreso especially when, rightly or wrongly, there appear to be different figures being bandied about in respect of stimulus on the one hand and deficit cuts on the other.
We do not wear the shoes or the crowns of the politicians or the economists, but it seems clear that a measure of confidence in the solutions to be taken will be needed, and we hope that such certainty and confidence will be on display once the Budget debate begins.
In the meantime, it will be important that the Government and its advisors speak with one voice, once they speak at all.
It would be just as useful if the banks and other lending institutions, as a matter of policy, exercise such mercy as they may to temper their legitimate demands which they can make against homeowners delinquent in their mortgages or other loan payments.
In a very real sense, we are all in this together and rocking the boat at this stage and causing it to take on water, so to speak, would militate against the better national interests.
Already there are calls for the dismissal of the minister of finance consequent upon the current situation, but the policies were those taken by the Government as a whole. The matter of highest interest right now is righting the boat, and that may not be enhanced by such a move at this stage and with the delivery of the Budget not that far away.
Sensible citizens will appreciate that our fiscal affairs are delicately poised, for while purchasing power in the hands of consumers is required to create some buoyancy, the great danger of that buoyancy adversely spilling into the loss of foreign reserves is a hazard not to be minimized when reserves are falling.


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