EDITORIAL: Heading down the home stretch
With December 2018 now making its way into reality, it is clear that Christmas and the prospects of 2019 must be on the island’s focus.
For all of the attempts to gloss over the major fiscal adjustment which this island has started to endure, citizens of this country will enter what is traditionally the most festive time of the year with a sense of unease for the impending New Year.
We must face the truth within Barbados. This island has not been treated to a full discussion on the implications of the fiscal adjustments agreed to and the hard realities which will be faced. This island’s leaders entered into a International Monetary Fund (IMF) Agreement which is riddled with deliverables which this country has been committed to.
The primary adjustment had to do with the wage bill. Government has been working to reduce the size of its workforce in an attempt to control its spending. Wages and salaries accounted for a significant portion of Government’s annual Budget and had been spoken about by previous Administrations, with little reforms being done. The irony of this inaction, was that the numbers were not robots waiting to be re-programmed, but people who would be dismissed from jobs, and face the prospect of no income and no viable means through which to support their families.
Where is the conversation for these Barbadian citizens who entered into the workforce with the intent of pulling themselves up from their circumstances to earn a living. These people were told unceremoniously that in some cases, their jobs did not mesh with what a 2018 workforce in Barbados should look like. Was that fair to them?
Government has continued to speak in broad macro-economic terms. We have been told that this island’s economic recovery is important and critical to ensuring a better life for all citizens, but which citizens have benefitted to date? So far, the working class has borne the brunt of the front-end of this fiscal adjustment, with nothing more than platitudes coming from our political leaders.
If this adjustment calls for a national consensus and shared sacrifice, what are those sacrifices from our political leaders? Has Government adhered to a leaner more financially responsible approach to its internal operations? This is not referring to cutting spending at statutory boards, but what about the size of Cabinet, or ministerial salaries?
The IMF provided balance of payments support to help the island secure and maintain its currency peg with the U.S. dollar. The securing of loans from various agencies for budgetary support also does not address the fact that this island is still not in a better position to earn critical foreign exchange, in volumes that will provide long term balance within our critical foreign reserves. There is nothing wrong with efficiency within our public finances, but what about growth prospects?
What about Hyatt and the promise of increased construction jobs, within the private sector? What are the major infrastructure projects which are earmarked for boosting the island’s economy?
As we quickly approach Christmas, many Barbadians will exercise caution, being hampered with increased taxation, so in most cases the essentials will be sought. That will redound to the benefit of the retail sector, but what will the prospects be in 2019? Thousands have lost sustained work and their ability to contribute to a consumer based economy will be diminished.
It speaks to a society which has a nervous feel to it. It is riddled despite the posturing in some quarters with unease. Yes the credit rating has improved after years of downgrades but how has this translated into the lives of Barbadians, especially at this time?