The George Brathwaite Column – Sinckler’s Answer to Economic Insecurity

Submitted By Dr. George Brathwaite
Chris Sinckler, Minister of Finance

Chris Sinckler, Minister of Finance

Finance Minister, Christopher Sinckler, will tomorrow [15/08/2016] deliver the 2016 Financial Statement and Budgetary proposals. This occasion may well be Minister Sinckler’s last budget presentation, based strictly upon the unflattering performances of the Barbados economy throughout his stewardship. Perceivably, people and progress have been pushed from being the central plank of national development priorities. Uncertainty and economic insecurity now choke and strangle Barbadians at every turn.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP), with Sinckler as the Minister of Finance, has been marked by a prolonged lack of creativity. Effective leadership has been an absent feature, and the reluctance for acting expeditiously has precipitously reaped a badly damaged social economy. It was Minister Sinckler in the 2012 budget who suggested that the DLP stood committed on “a platform that prioritises economic stability and growth, social advancement and security, and human, cultural and psychological development.” The evidence against the DLP’s paltry returns are shameful and alarming.

The facts indicate that in Barbados, there is a falling standard of living, fall-back on the quality of life, and rising concerns over mounting social ills which are now badly affecting the society. The DLP has contributed greatly to the ‘backwardness’ enveloping Barbados of which some things are structural but were left unattended. Coupled with declining revenues and insufficient inflows of foreign exchange, the increasing exit of foreign companies from Barbados is problematic. The situation lessens Sinckler’s room for macroeconomic manoeuvring. By not improving Barbados’ ‘ease of doing business’, the Minister of Finance’s interventions (or lack thereof) may push away even more companies, and force displaced persons to join the unemployment lines.

In tourism, Barbados’ visitor spend although increasing in 2016, remains below a threshold that would positively and significantly show the value linkage between registering increased numbers of cruise and stay over visitors and the government distributing its social welfare programmes. Poverty has grown in Barbados, and Minister Sinckler must be clear on how his budgetary proposals will bring relief for many Barbadians feeling the predicaments of his previously enunciated policies of structural adjustment and stability.

Additionally, the foolhardiness of the DLP government to continuously rely on the Central Bank’s printing of money has been counterproductive for the economy and society. The failure of the DLP government to revitalise manufacturing, construction, and push small and medium enterprises to become more export-oriented have made more vulnerable the state of Barbados’ social economy. It sometimes seems as though that both the Minister and the Governor want to jump and wave to the tune saying that local debt is acceptable as opposed to incurring more foreign debt.

In April, economist Ryan Straughn indicated that with Barbados receiving the latest of more than a dozen downgrades, it “clearly demonstrates that the Freundel Stuart administration has successfully fooled itself into thinking that the Home Grown Fiscal Stabilisation and Economic Revitalization Programme is working,” and suggested that the Finance Minister persists in “pursuing a path that takes Barbados closer to economic ruin.” Defiantly, Sinckler maintains a political optimism for achieving macroeconomic stability and reigniting the Barbados economy. He often speaks of fuelling real and sustained growth, but candidly, these goals have rested more on his apparent political guile than on his utilisation of sound economic judgement and practical decision-making.

Nonetheless, Barbadians are anxious to hear the overdue budgetary statement, and to examine the extent that the Finance Minister would arrest the situations of wastage, debt, and inefficiency. The Minister may want to draw on public/private projects that are being advocated in the interest of national development. Surely, few are convinced with Prime Minister Stuart’s premise that “the benefits are beginning to trickle down to our people once again.” Given the country’s unflattering socio-economic indicators, and the mixed signals being sent to Barbadians depending on who is doing the talking, the anticipation for this year’s budget will attract the personalised question of ‘what is in it for me’, while collectively saying to whoever will listen, that ‘we can’t tek it no more’!

Mr. Sinckler must not get stuck on first quarter employment data. Nor should he be contented with political style over substance, particularly when many Barbadians are experiencing hard and strenuous times. Across the public sector and in sections of the private sector, the industrial relations climate remains unsettled at best. The DLP’s actions towards the trade unions have appeared more punitive than restorative or win-win oriented. The vexing issues of low worker morale and low productivity attract capital’s attention and government’s bashing of the worker. Generally, persons want:

  • An end to the persistence of low wages and high prices;
  • The policy and incentive instruments that encourage local investment while at the same time, ensuring that there is more disposable income in peoples’ pockets;
  • Respect built on economic justice for trade unions and their memberships after wage increases have not been forthcoming in almost a decade;
  • A halt to the growing size of the DLP-created category of worker commonly referred to as the working poor, and largely comprising many persons from the once flourishing middle class.

Minister Sinckler is likely to be steadier with both his tongue and his policy framework given that a general elections build-up is already taking shape. He will be reluctant to impose new taxes. Barbados, in the past few years, became home to an extremely overtaxed population. Hence, householders and businesses will hope for taxation ease. They will know if the Governor of the Central Bank’s concerns regarding the foreign reserves are to invoke more stringent regulations and controls when it comes to getting and spending foreign dollars. Constraints surrounding the Pound Sterling make things more difficult for those receiving pensions from the old imperial power. On person’s minds will be the possibility that new restrictions will curb their spending power and capability to source cheaper goods and services.

Plainly put, numerous Barbadians remain sceptical about this Minister of Finance’s plan to promote prosperity in Barbados. Last year, Minister Sinckler was saying in his budget that “the single largest issue facing the economy, is that economic growth in Barbados remains below the 2.5 to 3.0 percent that is normal for our economy.” With things pointing to another year of below par growth, many persons are doubtful that this DLP can fix an ailing and under-performing economy.

Can Sinckler fix the economy, and will his fiscal management be able ‘to reinvigorate and deepen economic growth” to between 2.5 to 3.5 % of GDP? Will the Minister of Finance be persuaded by lessons of our history and practical experiences? In 1982, Prime Minister JMGM ‘Tom’ Adams stated that “while foreign exchange reserves can and have been augmented by judicious borrowing, this must be kept within strictly manageable limits and used for investment, not consumption purposes.” More recently, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur cautioned that Barbados’ “foreign exchange reserves have fallen by half a billion dollars over the course of the last few years; this is not the time for the Central Bank of Barbados to be printing money to finance a Government’s deficit.”

Will Sinckler heed the sage advice of two former and successful Ministers of Finance, or will he bow to the vagary of an upcoming general elections? The economic insecurity that has been stirring things such as higher unemployment and crime rates, must be tackled in the budget. Only the Minister knows if he will give the Police and the Courts the resources they need to adequately fight crime and deliver justice. Only Minister Sinckler can say what he will do to create jobs when the restlessness is already bringing about insecurity.

Also, it is vital that this country continues to provide quality health care and education, although the DLP’s policy options have seriously imperilled the fate of many Barbadians wanting to pursue tertiary education. The probable introduction of user fees at the QEH will likely be deferred but, in its place, Barbadians may see the Finance Minister roll back on free bus fares for school children while increasing the adult fare by as much as 50 cents per ride.

The national uncertainty amounts to widespread economic insecurity. Sinckler must be empathetic to the poor, caring to the elderly, and able to deliver for the youth of which too many are unemployed or underemployed. He must inspire our business people who cannot get things going due to government’s own lack of urgency in decision-making and failure to settle the state’s arrears. This budget will be pivotal in the shaping of Barbados. As it is, the economic insecurity is real but this writer hopes that the immediate future is not laced with more austerity and joblessness.

(Dr. George C. Brathwaite is a researcher and political consultant, and up until recently, he was editor of Caribbean Times (Antigua). Email: ).

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26 Comments on “The George Brathwaite Column – Sinckler’s Answer to Economic Insecurity”

  1. Frustrated Businessman aka 'Nation of Laws' my ass. August 16, 2016 at 7:56 AM #

    A very long-winded way of saying ‘the worst government in the history of Barbados’.

    On Sandy’s last day in office a sigh of relief was breathed: ‘Thank God it is over, that could never happen again’.

    And now this.

    Professional crooks took over the operation of a reasonably successful rumshop, ate and drank out the stock, mortgaged the property to give away drinks to idle ‘patrons’ on the front step who only support the enterprise for the free drinks and now there is no going-concern to hand over to the next tenant.

    The contract with the electorate long-since broken, not a single shred of trust or credibility left and still these bitches prolong the suffering of the citizens of this country to line their own pockets.


  2. Pachamama August 16, 2016 at 8:06 AM #

    @ George Brathwaite

    We have only ever found marginal differences in 50 years of budgets.

    It will be rooted within an economic system that does not work, cannot be made to work.

    This hype around this matter is unwarranted by all involved.

    Sinckler will say the same type of things which maybe 10 MOF have said before

    and that process will repeat itself for many years to come.

    So when your boys get in, no pun intended, the process is unlikely to be any different.

    Sinckler will tinker a little bit here tinker a little bit there and the position after the budget will be the position ante, or worse.

    Of course, he has to pretend that past policies are working

    That the global economy prevents more government largesse

    All Bajans are to be called upon to tighten their belts. Even when belts are already so tight that there is hardly a waist line anymore. LOL

    One last thing, being the powfle-foolish man that he is, the discourse is guaranteed to be littered with a number of words we seldom come across. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  3. FearPlay August 16, 2016 at 9:14 AM #

    This outstanding piece of work as minister of finance created the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) and that makes him a Comprehensive Unifier of National Taxation (….) of whom we are all proud. Today will provide him with another opportunity to rape the purses of hard working and long suffering Barbadians. How can we block this gaggle of moronic imbeciles from drawing a single cent in pension from the national treasury (if any remains).


  4. recoanthony August 16, 2016 at 9:48 AM #



  5. Bernard Codrington. August 16, 2016 at 10:04 AM #

    George B.Eloquently put. Let us see how the electorate reacts.


  6. Old Baje August 16, 2016 at 11:56 AM #

    @ FB

    This lot is making Sandi look like a genius.


  7. David August 16, 2016 at 4:43 PM #

    What is Sinckler saying about all previous governments borrowing to shore up foreign exchange. Does he appreciate the current state of the Barbados economy means his government is at a disadvantage to go to the capital market given our junk rating and high debt profile?


  8. Gabriel August 16, 2016 at 4:56 PM #

    Sinckler has no hope in convincing any investor to invest with confidence in Barbados.He is reading very fast so as to reduce the time MAM will have to reply and expose all the folly that Sinckler is as minister of finance and all the underhand attempts to hoodwink the citizens of Barbados with lies and more promises.


  9. David August 16, 2016 at 5:28 PM #

    Agree with Sinckler that the so-called Budget Day’ should be used to outline the thematic.


  10. Tron August 16, 2016 at 6:07 PM #

    Sandy was the only man in Barbadian history who got it:

    The public sector must shrink by at least 30 %. Too many ministers, judges, pastors and bureaucrats for such a small island, too big governmental building, too low productivity.

    Of course, the establishment will always find some banksters for a loan with 10-20 % interest to pay for their iPhones and holiday in Florida. Credit Suisse made the deal of the millennium with the last consortial facility: Borrowing for 0 % from Swiss Central Bank, delivering it to Bim for 10 %. Wow, MoF! How impressive!

    Did they already impose a tax on taxes?


  11. chad99999 August 17, 2016 at 5:56 AM #

    On this blog, nearly all the commentary on the state of the economy is oppositional, not propositional. What exactly would a BLP MoF do that would be different from the status quo?
    David needs to help clarify the policy alternatives in a much more systematic way — bullet point by bullet point.


  12. David August 17, 2016 at 6:11 AM #


    Commenters are free to comment based on how they prefer to delineate the issues. There is consensus that our system is broken and what ever the policy prescription we will all meet eventually at the same place read high debt and a growing consumption behaviour.


  13. Frustrated Businessman aka 'Nation of Laws' my ass. August 17, 2016 at 6:24 AM #

    chad99999 August 17, 2016 at 5:56 AM #
    On this blog, nearly all the commentary on the state of the economy is oppositional, not propositional. What exactly would a BLP MoF do that would be different from the status quo?
    David needs to help clarify the policy alternatives in a much more systematic way — bullet point by bullet point.

    You are wrong.

    Several times I and others have offered alternatives and solutions here and directly to the jackasses who have been in free-fall for 8 years.

    The solutions are not complicated. They do not include ‘more of the same’. The fundamental problem is that popular support at the polls does not qualify someone for anything other than holding a fete.

    The core of the problem is motive or intent. Do people stand for election to ‘give back’ after a successful private career or do they stand in order to further their own financial goals? We all now know the answer to that question.

    “Do not continue a mistake just because you spent a long time making it”.

    We must start with constitutional reform to de-politicise the senate, without that ‘fuse’ working like it does in the USA we will always be at the mercy of elected tyrants.


  14. chad99999 August 17, 2016 at 3:35 PM #

    As I have said many times before, the reason we have an elected government is that we want decision-makers to be accountable for the choices they make on our behalf.
    We do not want power vested in unelected officials or unelected bodies.
    How does a “de-politicized” Senate make any sense? I do not trust the “independent” judgment of elites, because they do not represent anyone but themselves. That goes for exalted judges and magistrates too.


  15. Frustrated Businessman aka 'Nation of Laws' my ass. August 18, 2016 at 7:34 AM #

    chad99999 August 17, 2016 at 3:35 PM #
    As I have said many times before, the reason we have an elected government is that we want decision-makers to be accountable for the choices they make on our behalf.
    We do not want power vested in unelected officials or unelected bodies.
    How does a “de-politicized” Senate make any sense? I do not trust the “independent” judgment of elites, because they do not represent anyone but themselves. That goes for exalted judges and magistrates too.

    Read the constitution of Barbados.

    The people we need to run this country will not ever stand on a podium or to a ballot box.

    They do, however, function in the national institutions we have created over 300 years such as the unions and professional associations that abound.

    When an elected minister of health puts forward, and passes through the lower house, legislation regarding healthcare in BIm, would you not be more comfortable knowing that BAMP had a representative in the Senate to properly represent the facts, from a better understanding, so the senate could send flawed thinking back down? Would this process not demand of the elected better consideration of the people who actually make this country work before legislation is considered? Of course it would.

    I’m suggesting that selected associations of Barbados put forward names to the GG for senatorial appointment. The senatorial election process would therefore exist within the associations among their piers, not on the block. I am in no way suggesting an elite senate.

    Barbados is not working!!!!!!!!!!! We need a practical, hands-on approach. As our Constitution stands, the Senate is the easiest way.


  16. Tron August 18, 2016 at 12:20 PM #

    @Frustrated Businessman aka ‘Nation of Laws’ my ass

    We should not seek a senatorial solution, we should abolish this institution to save money.

    Better, get in a government of “technical experts” for five years, without affiliation to BDLP, having some good record, and let them work for five 5 years even at the expense of temporary social riots to reform the country.

    The state is not the solution, but the private sector. As long as Bim has such a huge structural overhead in the public sector and such high taxes, the country will never, never ever recover.


  17. Peter Lawrence Thompson August 18, 2016 at 2:43 PM #

    @Frustrated Businessman aka ‘Nation of Laws’

    I understand the reasons that you are drawn to a constitutional change to fix the institutional kleptocracy that Barbados government has become, however… perhaps chad99999 was trying to discover what sort of macroeconomic policy makes sense it our circumstances.

    Step 1. Austerity does not work. This has been amply proven both in theory and practice (for the theory see any of the work of Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang: for practice, note that there is not a single instance of it having worked in a sustainable manner anywhere in the world). The economy needs rational stimulation by increasing the buying power of the lower and middle classes. Why not the upper classes too? because the upper classes will simply save the money instead of spending it to expand economic activity. The problem is that the fixed exchange rate will be put in jeopardy if the government increases the deficit, so there must be simultaneous measures to stem the outflow of foreign exchange as well as increase government revenue. The most obvious choice is to increase customs duties in so far as we can without breaching international trade agreements. This both generates state revenue as well as reduces the demand for imports thus conserving foreign exchange.

    Step 2. Build the micro and small scale entrepreneurial sector. Make it a 15 minute online process that costs no more than $50 to go through ALL the bureaucracy to start most new businesses. Set up a non-profit business incubation, acceleration, and startup financing institution. This can be financed with philanthropic contributions from USAID, the Inter American Development Bank, the European Union, the British Council, Cuso International and others. It needs to be entirely independent of government in order for it not to be destroyed by political favoritism.

    Step 3. Target tourism development toward high net worth individuals. This is because mass market tourism is too vulnerable to global economic fluctuations. Brexit will have a devastating impact on Virgin Atlantic traffic and there is no other market that will take up the slack. We need to cope with lower arrival levels by increasing the spend per individual at high end resorts. For example the Hyatt development in Bridgetown should be no higher that 3 or 4 stories, be designed to fit into Bridgetown’s heritage architecture, and charge no less than US$700 per night instead of US$300.

    Step 4. ???


  18. David August 18, 2016 at 2:56 PM #


    Business facilitation as you described it will NOT be a reality unless we solve the problem of our Courts.



  19. Peter Lawrence Thompson August 18, 2016 at 3:12 PM #


    Please explain… not doubting you— just that I’ve been away from the rock for 40 years and there is much I don’t know.


  20. David August 18, 2016 at 3:26 PM #

    You must have heard Peter that our judiciary has ground to an embarrassing halt?

    Just Google it.



  21. pieceuhderockyeahright -INRI August 18, 2016 at 8:10 PM #

    @ peter Thompson

    You are returning and others are leaving and, as sad as this will seem, I predict that you will too Peter

    Barring the grey you still have the Afro-esque styling, and from your writing you are still a straight shooter from the hip.

    I will try to be brief and will choose one point to assist in your rapid sensitization

    You said “Step 2. Build the micro and small scale entrepreneurial sector. Make it a 15 minute online process that costs no more than $50 to go through ALL the bureaucracy to start most new businesses.”

    There are several reasons that this will not work beyond the fact that we are among two tribes of monkeys. The major reason is this is the main gravy train of lawyers in Barbados since, unlike in the United States where you can incorporate a company in 15 minutes, the process her requires a lawyer AND THEY WILL NOT RELEASE THEIR HOLD ON THIS ASPECT OF BUSINESS FACILITATION

    “Set up a non-profit business incubation, acceleration, and startup financing institution. ”

    The prerequisite for an incubator Peter is people who understand what is to be incubated.

    As simple as that may seem to you the fact is that there are few people here who have that expertise.

    “This can be financed with philanthropic contributions from USAID, the Inter American Development Bank, the European Union, the British Council, Cuso International and others.”

    These institutions that you have mentioned are totally fed up with the local tribes and that includes Mugabe Mottley in whom the IADB invested US$236 million in Edutech and the current donkey Fumbles.

    ” It needs to be entirely independent of government in order for it not to be destroyed by political favoritism.”

    You are new here on the island and it will take some time for you to understand that that concept of “independent ” and political favoritism is a myth and is the reason the cuntry is where it is.

    You were always an outspoken person Peter and a champion of the people but your will soon realize that this is an exercise in futility and waste foopism.

    @ De Word aka DPD

    Foop is an onomatopoeic word. I believe that it was started by a bajan who sought to use a word that approximated a sound of a “noisy one” heheheheh which in his estimation was making a sucking sound.

    Rasshol* was an attempt to permit a man to curse a person in authority and, “since in their estimation, it was not a curse word, they could cuss the object of their derision without any recourse by the subject e.g. A judge or policeman.

    Over the course of time it “rash ole” has migrated into the Bajan vocabulary but, like the word foop, has not gone much further than our shores.

    Much like the word scvunt is peculiar to Guyana so too, like the bane of the people of Barbados, a set of superlative dufuses, I give you the DLP who, like the word, are similarly constrained.

    A pity that they did not stay in the confines of their respective homes instead of running for government


  22. Tron August 18, 2016 at 9:46 PM #

    @Peter Lawrence Thompson

    Let us learn from Greece. Austerity did not work, OK. However, in Greece austerity was just about raising taxes. Nobody ever tried to get rid off at least 30 % of the public servants. Such a structural adjustment would possibly work in Greece.
    You also propose to make imports more expensive. Do you live in Bim and have children? USA and Europe: one liter milk 2 BBD, in Bim 6 BBD. Construction costs for homes like Norway or Switzerland, but you get poor quality here. Cars: For what you pay in Bim for a tiny Japanese box, you get a S class Mercedes in the States. You pay thousands of dollars for primary school education since the public schools are a no-go now. Tertiary eduction also got expensive, whereas it is free in most parts of Europe. Indeed, Bim is one of the most expensive destinations in the world. That is especially true for lower and middle-class families.

    Moreover: The high living costs result in higher allowances for the upper crust of ministers, judges and bureaucrats. Higher allowance means higher expenses, means higher budget deficit, means hugher taxes, means higher allowances – a typical circulus vitiosus.

    “Target tourism development toward high net worth individuals.” OK. Given the excessive prices for hotels and food we are already doing that (see above)?
    You also want to preserve the currency peg. Why? It makes every local product and service “made in Bim” very expensive, especially the primary industry which is tourism. In my opinion the currency should fit to the low productivity in the public sector and most parts of the private sector. To sum up, the true value of the BBD is not 1:2, but more 1:5 or 1:6.

    There is another way to cope with the foreign currency problem. Simply let people pay in USD or EUR for imported products. If you have no forex you cannot. If you have you can.

    Maybe I am wrong. In any case Bim needs a DRASTIC change of economic policies. We both agree that this kind of austerity “made by the MoF” is destroying this little island.


  23. Peter Lawrence Thompson August 19, 2016 at 9:11 AM #

    Thanks for letting me know about the hoops that entrepreneurs must jump through in Barbados.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. Austerity does not work even when governments slash the civil service to cut their bloated payroll… all it does is push the economy further into recession.

    I have not yet got back to Barbados; I’m doing some volunteer business incubation and economic development work in Jamaica this year and it’s similarly expensive here.

    I am not sure that Barbados should preserve the currency peg, but there will likely be severe (perhaps catastrophic) devaluation if it is abandoned and the currency will rapidly sink to the level that the Jamaican dollar has. At the moment the negative electoral consequences of moving away from the currency peg seems to be the only thing that constrains either political party from even more destructive policy behaviour. Your idea to cope with the foreign currency problem is a good one.


  24. David August 19, 2016 at 9:25 AM #

    The other big issue for Barbados and the wider Caribbean is the lack of discipline managing public finances. They impose tax after ta but the spend is based on maintaining popularity. This is a key reason why our system of governance is failing. Our inability to build a system based on meritocracy read holding elected officials accountable.



  25. Frustrated Businessman aka 'Nation of Laws' my ass. August 20, 2016 at 7:32 AM #

    Peter, all of the initiatives you mention make perfect sense, obviously. And there are many more that make sense such as:

    abolition of all import duties and the staff that enforces them.
    open the bottleneck that is the Bridgetown port.
    Impose 25% VAT on all non-ForEx purchases to replace import duties.
    abolish the Central bank, our currency and the costs that go with it (EC?).
    make the first stop on any boating trip west from europe more boating friendly.
    embrace our history to attract the affluent visitors you speak of, including VAT-free incentives for building restoration.

    etc. etc.

    None of that can happen if we do not create some sort of oversight over our elected politicians. That can only happen if the senate is reformed to actually function rather than rubber-stamp laws sent up in the name of maintaining popularity.


  26. Bush Tea August 20, 2016 at 8:40 AM #

    @ Frustrated B
    Bushie feels your passion….
    However, have you stopped to consider that you may be focusing on a symptom rather than on the basic ailment ..when you concentrate your advice on Fumble’s fools?

    While Hal ponders his answer to the same question, perhaps YOU may wish to share with us WHY Barbados deserves better than Fumble’s fools….

    Life is complex, and there are spiritual LAWS which determine OUTCOMES, based on inputs. The OUTCOME of having a pack of OBVIOUS JAs installed in our Parliament is most likely then a consequence of certain inputs into the equation…..
    Perhaps we need to focus on what these flawed INPUTS are …and the OUTCOMES will take care of themselves.

    The Other way is CERTAINLY not working…. and when Bushie looks, in depth, at the alternatives when the day after next elections comes…. (Gline Clarke, Noel Lynch, etc) …
    How different is the frying pan from the fire….?


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