Friday, April 12, 2024

Much riding on Mottley’s speech


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THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE of the Barbados Labour Party is taking place at a critical time in this country’s economic and, some even say, political history.

It coincides with a time when the country has, to all intents and purposes, two unchallenged leaders of the major political parties and, apparently, two parties with diametrically divergent views about how the political economy should be managed.

In some quarters there is considerable debate on the state of the economy, and one of the most telling concerns is that some major players have recently expressed their apprehension about the further fiscal adjustments which may have to be made to the extent of some $175 million.

It would not be unfair to say that in some other quarters, too, some confidence has been eroded, and that we are not yet seeing growth which, if and when it occurs, should greatly assist in pulling this economy around.

In the circumstances, the speech of the Leader of the Opposition will command a greater than normal attention, and over the next weeks it will be analysed and critiqued at length.

The speech will ultimately be judged on whether it shows that the Opposition is ready to step up to the plate and demonstrate  the kind of readiness which allows the public to gauge whether it is ready to assume the reins of office.

The absence of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur from the conference – because he has quit the party and now sits as an Independent in Parliament – will be keenly felt. His track record and experience must count for much in any kind of reflection and prognosis.

Miss Mottley therefore has a dual responsibility. She must demonstrate the clearest management and control of her team, and she must put forward and so argue the case for a change of economic policies as to convince her fellow citizens that what is essentially wrong with this country is that the wrong policies are being pursued.

By the time this editorial appears, the details of her speech will have been known; but even at this distance we would expect her speech to speak to issues of immigration, the offshore sector, direct and indirect taxation policy, issues of domestic transport policy and the policy on financing tertiary level education.

We would expect that the policy on immigration may have to take account of the developing demographic profile of our country. Put simply: an increasingly older population will mean eventually more retirees and fewer wage-earning and taxpaying employees. Such a circumstance will bring a slew of challenges for the management of our payment of pensions, especially given the financing of certain public sector projects by the National Insurance Scheme.

This country cannot move many inches forward unless there is a manhandling of policy at the various levels of government referred to herein.

For the past six years the Government has had its chance to chart a new path to prosperity; and many there will be who would agree that if any success has been achieved, there are still major potholes and economic icebergs which have to be tackled head-on if  we are to preserve and maintain our high quality of life.

If she succeeds in her speech, Miss Mottley would have demonstrated that she has begun to stamp her personal mark on a range of policy initiatives which contain within their DNA the solutions to Barbados’ economic problems.

There has never been a more important speech in this country’s political economy.



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