EDITORIAL: Let ideas contend
THIS country is entering the home stretch of an energetic General Elections campaign with the big day set for next Thursday, May 24.
That will be a ‘date with destiny’ for this country because it will be a defining one, in terms of the economic path which this island must embark upon to stabilise its foreign reserves, restore its credit rating and provide the services which the population has become accustomed to. However, when we as a population look past the name-calling, innuendo, and loud sounds which emanate from the various platforms across the island, we have to ask some tough questions. We have to establish what exactly do we want and expect from any government elected to govern this country for the next five years.
To that we refer to the period of 2013 to 2018. If you look back at the last parliamentary term, it coincided with a decline in the island’s economic fortunes... That is no secret, but we have to come to grips with why it happened and establish clearly what we can do to ensure that the structural deficiencies which have dogged this island’s economy over the years are corrected, with a view to driving the productive sectors to actually produce more, while Government controls or reduces its spending, and fixes its inefficiencies with taxation collection.
Government spending has to be looked at. As it stands, a considerable sum of Government expenditure is tied into wages and salaries. In the debate over increases in salaries, has anyone considered that increases in salaries, without an increase in revenue is tantamount to going to a car dealer, signing a contract for the latest high-end car, when your income does not allow you to meet the first payment or sustain those payments for any period of time?
The problem which Government has is that if you increase the payments, through salary increases, when your revenue stream is not sustainable, then economic planning cannot support that move. So what is the reality which frankly some have failed to address? Given the recent Central Bank Governor’s Report, it is clear that this island must drive its debt down further, while increasing its revenue collection. Add to that, the need to maintain critical services and protect the foreign reserves, it makes for a serious conversation that must be had.
It seems that our way of life has caught up to us. Look at the United States, for example, President Barack Obama fought to pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which for the first time provided a means for those who were most vulnerable to afford health care. The Act was designed, in part, for Government to stand in the breach to shield consumers from rising health care costs, and provide them with a path to critical and affordable care for their families. The current Administration under President Donald Trump, arguably came to power, after pushing the view that the market can take care of costs ... thus gutting the law and placing millions in danger of rising health care costs.
To succeed in a modern world, Government had to provide services to help its citizens make the transition from workers on plantations to a workforce which drove the economy, in tourism or international business perhaps. That meant providing free health care, education to tertiary level, with services including sanitation provided. The problem became that as Barbados grew, with government standing in the breach, the costs grew as well. With Barbados striving to first world status as incomes rise, can Government afford to provide services at the same pace and level, if we do not continue to grow our economic output?
Those are questions which should be asked as this campaign enters the final stretch. What are the proposals to grow this economy? Are we moving this country to one of more independence and not dependence on the State for everything? Can this transition be done now or will it have to be delayed?
We await answers!