Sunday, April 14, 2024

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Statesmen wanted

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THE CURRENT IMPASSE between the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Dr DeLisle Worrell, who got a court injunction against his dismissal, and Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler, who is seeking to fire the governor, could not have come at a more difficult moment for Barbados.

Not only is the country facing an urgent challenge with the rapid, sharp and unsustainable decline in its foreign reserves, but these developments are taking place at the beginning of an election year.

It is this political timeline that has added complexity to the economic crisis.

No prime minister likes to know that the election date is taken out of his hands and determined by forces beyond his control. An election year is not the time when a government wants to receive public advice from an independent monetary authority on the dangers of “printing money”.

However, whilst the imbroglio between governor and minister holds clear and direct implications for the Barbadian economy, the fact cannot be escaped that it requires a wider political solution. This is why the call by former prime minister Owen Arthur for a “strong governor, a strong minister of finance and a strong prime minister” should be widened to a call for true statesmen to emerge.

In moments of crisis, statesmen distinguish themselves by acting for the next generation, whilst politicians can only act for the next election.

Politicians usually find it impossible to make hard decisions in election years. However, it would be unstatesmanlike to drag the election out for the entire year. In 2013, Barbados got a taste of a “legalistic” approach to calling an election, when Prime Minister Freundel Stuart indicated that since the Constitution had given him five years plus 90 days to call an election, then he was not going to reduce the time allotted to him.

Today, with the uncertainties over the falling reserves, the stalemate between minister and governor, the possibility of a formal International Monetary Fund programme, devaluation and the unsustainability of Government debt levels, a true statesman would conclude that the issues can only be resolved by a government with a fresh mandate.

Significantly, at the 11th hour, the governor of the Central Bank has publicly indicated the unsustainability of “printing money”, a matter, we have been reliably informed, that had earlier occupied his academic attention in another context. His professional awareness of the urgency of the crisis facing Barbados has forced the statesman to the fore.

Others should follow his cue. The minister of finance must assess honestly his economic leadership. Academics, who play a role in public education, must fight hard against political sycophancy and let intellectual honesty prevail. Senior opposition figures must focus less on settling political scores, but must weigh for themselves the true demands of the moment.

Will the true statesmen please stand up?

•Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: tjoe2008@live.com

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