THERE are quite a few people in Barbados who do not buy into the view that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its remedies are good for this country and other small developing states.
However, one thing remains clear among some of them who have aired their views: they are hoping that any agreement between the Barbados Government and the IMF will work to the benefit of this 166 square mile island, and that the agreement will be a short one rather than it being spread over many years.
The Fund has been approached to provide assistance to the economic recovery programme which the Mia Mottley administration has set its sights firmly on undertaking. From what has been seen and heard, there is strong support for that policy and what it will mean for pulling Barbados out of the troubles it has been in for some time.
Since the departure of the IMF team which visited the island last week for talks with government officials, all kinds of reports are making the rounds about what Barbados will have to do to satisfy the requirements of the Washington D.C financial institution in fixing the problems here. Measures like an increase in bus fares, slashing the size of the public service and other harsh proposals have been promoted, although there are no specific details on what needs to be done except what was published.
Those who are not in favour of the IMF usually point to the record attached to its involvement throughout the Third World or emerging market economies, as they are commonly referred. They have also found comfort in a publication titled “The Debt Trap: The IMF and the Third World”, by Cheryl Payer. That book, which is over 25 years old, gives a breakdown of the relations between those countries and the Fund, which was not the best. So opponents of the organisation remain convinced that the IMF today is still the IMF of years ago.
However, there are others who believe Barbados has nothing to fear from an agreement with that institution. The consensus among this group is that the Fund is no longer the ‘boogeyman’ it used to be in earlier days. They have pointed to assistance – both financial and technical – in rescuing some Caribbean islands like Grenada and Jamaica and putting them back on their feet.
The question about Barbados going to the IMF was put to two officials of the Sagicor Financial Corporation last week when they hosted a news conference on the 2017 performance of that company. Both gentlemen endorsed the move, saying that the decision by the Government demonstrates a recognition that Barbados has an economic problem, it has accepted the problem and it is willing to engage on a path to correct the problem. One of them went on to suggest that the IMF playbook has changed, having undertaken a successful programme in Jamaica which is the poster child of the IMF.
As Barbadians we must hope that our country gets a deal it can work with. While the 1991 Standby Arrangement was a painful exercise, it eventually turned around the economy, to the point where some of the bad habits leading up to that Agreement have resurfaced and we are, unfortunately, back to square one.