Tuesday, April 16, 2024

EDITORIAL: Are we in a crisis of confidence


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BY DEFINITION, A CRISIS speaks to a feeling of loss of control due to a particular situation, and the uncertainty of how to manage those circumstances. It is therefore not a word we would use lightly.

But, with great regret, we must say that Barbados seems to be heading towards a crisis of confidence – a situation in which people stop believing in what they are being told and who is telling it to them.

The evidence that suggests this downward slide can be gleamed from almost every aspect of life in this country today with people privately – and more often these days, publicly – expressing concern about the future given the lack of a well-articulated vision and strategy to chart the way forward.

Furthermore, this seeming lack of a coherent plan is compounded by incidents which negatively impact the populace but get little substantial feedback from the relevant authorities – only serving to aggravate the feeling of helplessness.

Statements made within the last few weeks by significant stakeholders illustrate the most recent poignant examples to which we refer.

One of these involves the rate of unemployment at 13.2 per cent announced last week. Executive director of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, Tony Walcott, viewed these numbers with suspicion. He was not alone.

Another example a few days ago was the call by chairman of Goddard Enterprises, Charles Herbert, on Government to stop sending mixed signals and make a decision on the future regime for tariffs and duties on selected processed meats.

He said as long as uncertainty remained, Goddards – which has 18 companies here – would make no new investment in the local plant or equipment for the local market.

A third example, also a few days ago, was assistant vice-president of Royal Fidelity Jillian Nunes’ statement that though Government officials had dismissed the Moody’s downgrades, wealth managers across the island were, in fact, worried.

Her statement came after the Inter-American Development Bank, one of Barbados’ main financiers, last month cautioned Government that even as it tries to reduce the fiscal deficit, its expenses are likely to rise given rating agency Moody’s latest triple-notch downgrade.

We can mention, too, the manner in which the introduction of tuition fees at the University of the West Indies was handled and the resultant drop in registration at the Cave Hill campus. 

While business people focus on profit and loss and return on investment, less tangible things like vision, purpose and confidence are more crucial to economies.

Even if one argues there is no crisis of confidence in Barbados, this situation can develop if Government continues to be unable to effectively implement policies which reduce its debt, while at the same time attract meaningful investments to stimulate economic growth.

Government needs to recognise it must provide this clarity through effective leadership.


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