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Arthur: Cut state funding
WHILE the Government of Barbados’ investment in areas important to any country’s development and the advancement of its citizens such as education and health care are what helps drive this island forward, there comes a time when these resources must be cut back by the State, especially at a time when the nation is underperforming.
This is the belief of Leader of the Opposition, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Owen Arthur, who addressed the media at a press conference recently at their office in Parliament.
“Investment in our social capital over a sustained period of time was one of the critical factors that helped to guide Barbados’ development and it explains we have reached a stage where we have obtained the highest ranking in the human development index, but a time can come when the social sector can become too large for the economy, especially if the economy is underperforming.”
The Opposition Leader stated that there comes a time when the Government would have to evaluate how it spends state funds and make any necessary modifications while still meeting the needs of the citizens of that country and continuing to reach for sustainable development.
“Our position has been that we are reaching that stage in Barbados and that adjustments had to be made to how the State spends, what it spends it on, how it seeks to meet the needs of a society that continues to record sustained investment in the social capital, whether by the Government or by the private sector.”
When this occurs, it is critical for all stakeholders to get together and discuss and agree upon what areas public spending would go towards and in what areas they would be cut, said Arthur.
“We are urged that the most important thing that must be done in Barbados is that a national consensus must be reached as to how we are going to deal with issues of public spending and it is not just a question of cutting and cutting and cutting. As part of that consensus, begin to seriously discuss how we are going to deliver services in the future that would have historically only been delivered by the State.”
He said that this can start by beginning to guide those persons who can take responsibility for their own welfare to do so. He explained that one of the ways that this can be achieved is through “fiscal incentives for social transformation”, whereby if public expenditure has to be cut on areas like education and health care, fiscal incentives must be provided for those persons to do certain things for themselves which were previously done for them by the State. “In that way, welfare is maintained and the fiscal situation is addressed.”
Another solution is for the Government to make greater use of public/private sector partnerships where the private sector takes on greater responsibility in the island, including taking over some of the responsibilities that have historically been done by the Government.
“When I spoke to the Employers’ Confeder-ation, I made it clear that Barbados has a problem with its public finances, that the Government is asset rich but cash-strapped, and that privatisation must be a part and parcel of the future of any Government of Barbados on the understanding, however, that the divestment of our State enterprises must not be to let the proceeds be used to meet the current expenditures, but should be segregated to pay debt and should be used for capital development.” (PJT)