Several events over the last few weeks, have impacted the level of confidence of Barbadians in the local economy –
The decision by the Bank of Guyana not to accept Barbados currency.
The Downgrade by CariCris this week on the heels of 17 previous downgrades
The belated Admission by the Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Delisle Worrell that Barbados has a debt problem and the further admission that the Fiscal Consolidation Programme since 2013 has failed.
The Statement by Jeremy Stephens that there ought to be serious concern regarding the value of our dollar and continued commitment to the fixed exchange rate.
The concern of regional economists regarding both the state of the Barbados economy and the failure of the Governor of the Central Bank to interface with the public
JMMB advising investors to sell off Barbados Bonds
In spite of these developments there has been stony silence from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.
The public must take note that this Government only acts when its back is against the wall as a result of pressure from the Opposition and members of the public, as was seen with the recent sewerage problems on the south coast, non-access to potable water in the north and north east of the island and the numerous potholes across Barbados, trivialized by none other than the Prime Minister himself, as an inconvenience.
It is not the Government that remedied these situations… it was a combination of official opposition agitation and outcry by the people.
It is either we are told the true state of the problem and are permitted to input in finding a solution or the government cut short the drift and inertia and return to the people for a mandate. But this government sitting in hope and wishing for a miracle, is, for us, no longer an option.
We note the public discomfort of at least two senior ministers of government in the direction we are headed and in the general state of drift and uncertainty that has befallen the local economy. We call on these and other elected members to take a stand, in the interest of Barbados, and join the movement to trigger some positive and meaningful action in respect of an obviously deteriorating economy and state of national economic affairs.
This Government acts only when its back is against the wall. It has done so with respect to every major challenge that developed into a crisis in recent months. We are saying now that there is a crisis of public confidence in the state and drift of the national economy and we, the citizens of Barbados, have a right to know what is going on.
(The BLP) insists Barbadians have a right to know the true state of the economy and also, that business people and investors alike need credible and timely information to influence their actions and decision making processes.
Accordingly, today, we ask of the Prime Minister of this country and of the Minister of Finance, the following:
- Is an IMF austerity programme on the cards for Barbados?
- Why, in spite of assurances from the Minister of Finance that the economy had “turned the bend” has the Barbados economy continued to fail to meet targets for economic growth and deficit and debt reduction?
- Why is it that in spite of the celebrated increase in tourism arrivals and with falling oil prices, our foreign reserves have continued to decline; to the point where at December 31st, 2016 they fell to a 20 year low; providing less than 12 weeks of import cover… How do they explain this?
- What is the government’s plan for improving Barbados’ credit rating so as to avoid companies, like SAGICOR, having to exit to access better financing?
- How does the Central Bank keep printing money, knowing full well and publicly admitting the clear danger that this practice presents to the stability of the Barbados dollar?
- What is the true state of both the domestic and foreign sinking funds from which debt amortization is to be paid?
- How has the Governor of the Central Bank become the mouthpiece of the DLP Government on fiscal and economic affairs? Is it acceptable to the Government that even when the Governor speaks, his statements are vague and he refuses to be quizzed on anything he says?
- Does the Prime Minister not sense and recognize that his stony silence on national issues has become offensive to residents, bordering now on contempt for the very citizens that elected him? What will it take for him to step up to the plate and fill the perceived void that exists in the decision making chair on Bay Street?
The BLP is concerned that the Private Sector and the Workers and their representatives have been experiencing abnormal pressures. We are concerned and we would like to hear from the Prime Minister how he proposes to deal with matters of grave importance to the private sector and the workers and their representatives.
These are the matters we would be interested in hearing the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance address:
- Business people in Barbados are having difficulty accessing the foreign currency needed to meet their normal business requirements. There is now the practice of queueing; with persistent reports of some business persons being treated more equal than others. What do the authorities plan to do about this deteriorating state of affairs?
- The cash flow of many businesses is dissipating rapidly as a result of non payment of VAT Refunds. Businesses are having to choose between paying salaries and wages, paying creditors and making National Insurance and other tax payments on a timely basis. Firstly, is the Prime Minister aware of this and secondly, what does he and the Minister of Finance intend to do about it?
- How can trade Unions function effectively and advance a case for enhanced wages and terms and conditions of service for members, when it is so difficult to get information out of the government? Is there a deliberate strategy on the part of the Government, to keep workers and their representatives in the dark on vital issues that impact their welfare and well-being?
To the people of Barbados, we ask the following questions:
If an IMF austerity programme is now inevitable, as a result of the incompetence of Freundel Stuart, Chris Sinckler and Delisle Worrell and after six (6) failed adjustment programmes since 2010, are these same three individuals the persons you would trust to negotiate and lead Barbados into such an arrangement with the IMF? Do they have the moral authority to act in the name of the people of Barbados after 7 years of utter incompetence and dithering?
These are the questions we would like the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to answer and for thinking citizens to ponder, in the days and weeks ahead.