Saturday, April 13, 2024

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Political gymnastics


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I KNEW OF Minister Lowe’s various qualifications, but prior to the no-confidence debate, I didn’t know he was a professional boxer and comedian.

To state that the country is doing well again could only be classified as the ultimate in comedy. It’s true that all the contradictory figures you hear daily are confusing, but it seems Minister Lowe knows something we don’t.

Even the report on the latest IMF Article IV mission to Barbados in the WEEKEND NATION, while appearing promising from the title, Economy Looking Up, Says IMF, contains so many “if, buts and wherefores”, we still don’t know where we are. For instance:  . . . “if Government can get the Barbados Revenue Authority issues settled, . . . if  it can get some statutory corporations merged and working efficiently, the island’s worrying debt would drop significantly” and . . . “the troubling current account deficit narrowed significantly but the IMF highlighted the $57m drop in net international reserves since the beginning of 2015”.

 Furthermore, the IMF noted that “the economy faces serious challenges. Although growth has resumed and short-term prospects are positive, imbalances persist between available resources and government programmes . . . Barbados remains highly vulnerable and may not realise its potential without deep seated reforms to align revenues and expenditures and reduce debt”. From experience we know that expenditures seldom reduce, so aligning revenues no doubt means more taxes for us.

Before we could recover from that performance, Minister Lowe launched into a presentation on the Cahill project with the agility of a professional boxer, bobbing and weaving and dodging the controversy surrounding Government’s questionable handling of this project.

He calmly announced that recent evidence had shown that the system has significant flaws and since Barbadians had made their voices heard, Government would have to be mad to go ahead with that option. They would not forge ahead with anything that would bring disaster and would only use the safest option . . . Is this the same person who a few months ago was described as “defiant” as he came out swinging against critics of the Cahill plant, confirming that Government was standing by the project?

Having got themselves tied up in so many knots on the alleged agreement said to have been signed by four ministers, Government must have thanked its lucky stars for news of the abandonment of the two plants in Britain. But we shouldn’t allow them to wriggle out of the issue so easily without disclosing how much money has been spent so far, whether on legal or other fees or whatever else. Did they actually acquire the land at Vaucluse and if so for how much?

The NATION’S May 17 editorial quite rightly asked for an apology from the minister, but as we know politicians don’t have this word in their vocabularies.

Then we heard Minister Sinckler in a later parliamentary debate expounding on the virtues of government bonds and expressing delight over the huge appetite among residents for these bonds, which carry an interest rate of 5.5 per cent.

Sinckler reportedly said: “For 2015, I can say that is the largest amount cumulatively of any set of savings bonds issued in any single calendar year since bonds were being issued in Barbados from 1981.” I believe he went on to say that it was due to excellent marketing, etcetera, etcetera.

Does the minister expect us to fall for these theatrics? Doesn’t he think we realise that the increase in the appetite for these instruments coincided with Government’s removing of a minimum bank interest rate? Nowadays we’re almost paying banks to hold our money, so it’s obvious we don’t have much of a choice. That’s not to say the various instruments are not good investments if we can have confidence in Government to protect our interest literally and figuratively.

I’ve said before that this Government is one of contradiction. They say they want improved productivity, but how can we be productive when it takes almost a whole day to pay for a driver’s licence? Hasn’t anyone realised that the situation at Oistins is totally untenable. The room reminds me of an aquarium with no aerator and too many fish in it. The Pine and Holetown are at least civilised.

Then Government is said to have a cash flow problem, yet cheques paid into Inland Revenue since April 15 remain uncashed? How can this be explained?


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