EDITORIAL - Readying for elections
THE debate on the 2018/2019 Estimates have ended, Government’s new financial year has started, and the life of the present Parliament has also come to an end.
Both sides (Government and Opposition) in the House of Assembly have had their say on the contents of the Estimates. However, after all the deliberations, it is obvious that the Government and the Opposition are still miles apart on what is the best approach for dealing with the issues facing the Barbados economy.
Coming out of the debate were the finer details of the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Programme (BSRP), which, according to Government spokesmen, was put together in
association with the full Social Partnership.
The plan was first enunciated by the Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, at a luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, provided the ‘nuts and bolts’ to it in a marathon presentation when he opened the debate.
It entails, according to both men, a framework to return the economy to a three per cent rate of economic expansion by 2021; maintaining the existing fixed exchange rate; fiscal sustainability through a Balanced Budget by 2021; the creation of a credible and sustainable Debt Management Strategy; the reduction of unemployment to an annual average of eight per cent; a policy on the payment of arrears; financial reforms to help the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the University of the West Indies; and among other things, linking pay increases to improved productivity.
The proposals by the Government came about as the economy registered another year of low growth in 2017, declining foreign exchange reserves and what Owen Arthur called a debt overhang.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley dismissed both the Estimates and the plan as an exercise in futility. She said that on the eve of the dissolution of Parliament, Government had come up with a glorified “to-do list” after ignoring the issues facing the economy.
This was expected, since Opposition parties seldom agree with Governments they are looking to unseat, especially when elections are in the air.
However, the Estimates debate provided a golden opportunity for the BLP to not only to pick apart the BSRP, see where it has shortcomings, what is likely to work, or not work, but to come with its own plan. Following this, and using its members to market the ideas, the party would have had it placed in the public’s domain where it could be matched against what the Government has proposed.
This did not happen and it was left to Mr. Sinckler and his colleagues in government to accuse the BLP of not having an alternative programme. He in particular wanted to know how is it that nothing of the sort was forthcoming from the BLP. Sometimes parties tend not to do this for fear that their ideas may be taken up by others. But as the Government-in-waiting, the BLP should have a clear and concise path and one that is well articulated on where it wants to take Barbados in the event it wins the elections.
It is expected that as the political fever heats up in the coming weeks, this will be a matter for discussion, leaving the public to decide.