Tuesday, April 16, 2024

EDITORIAL: Time for PM to crack the whip

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Fellow Barbadians, we are confronted with the greatest challenge of all times; yet with all the conflicting evidence emerging from Cabinet colleagues, the conclusion is inescapable: Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler doesn’t appear to have the confidence necessary to carry out his duties.
It is perhaps compounded by recent debate on the no-confidence motion brought by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley against Mr Sinckler. No one on the Government side rose to support him though he gave a spirited defence of himself. The irony is now exposed.
Of even greater curiosity was the recent suggestion by former Prime Minster Sir Lloyd Sandiford that the important portfolio of Minster of Finance should be held by the Prime Minister who should be in “charge of how the economy was going”. This statement suggests that Sir Lloyd may have some misgivings about the policies of the incumbent Minister of Finance. He supported Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick, who distanced himself from the lay-off of 3 000 public sector workers, but did not publicly endorse him to be minister of finance.
This latest intervention, though well-intentioned no doubt, has created further uncertainty, which is always bad for investment. It increases the value of waiting, and what we have seen over the last five years is that businesses, even when they’ve had cash and had opportunities, they’ve held off investing.
In the midst of the economic crisis facing the nation, occasioned by the recent report of Article 1V Consultation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the public excoriation of his Cabinet by Dr Estwick, it is time for Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to crack the whip.
It is more than passing strange that Dr Estwick could engage in discussions with two foreign countries about borrowing billions of dollars without ostensible Cabinet approval and without full powers necessary under national or international law.
Government borrowed heavily over the past five years to finance current expenditure, and that aggravated the current crisis. Investor confidence has dwindled and we can expect small businesses to collapse, social problems are likely to increase, while almost every institution is calling for change of economic direction.
We are more than disappointed. It is inconceivable that a Cabinet would disown the policies in the Parliamentary Statement from Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler on December 13 last year after the Article 1V Consultation.
While some hold the opinion that Government cannot absolve itself of economically damaging decisions taken over the past few years, others think its official responses on the subject only draw the ridicule of the international world.
Indeed, there are Barbadians willing to invest, it seems, but the essential question is: will they require concessions to be viable?
In an economic implosion, we need luck or visionary leadership. At the moment, however, it looks like we have neither.

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