The Grenville Phillips Column – Politicians Cannot Grade Themselves
Every 5 years, Barbadians get an opportunity to look at their politicians’ report card and decide whether to allow them to continue to manage the national economy, or turn over management to a more competent group. Over the past 50 years, we chose not to look at their report cards, but instead simply listened to our politicians declare that they were doing a good job, and the opposition declare that they could do a better job.
Those of us who do not worship politicians normally made our voting decisions based on whomever was the most persuasive. I am an Engineer. How could I have been so gullible, naïve and lazy? Politicians cannot grade themselves. What was I thinking?
Like many others, I simply wanted to trust that our politicians knew what they were doing. I just wanted to participate in Barbados economy and leave the management up to what they told me was an experienced and competent political class. Our dollar appeared stable, the transition of power between BLP and DLP was non-violent, and we were not a dictatorship. So while everything was not perfect, I was convinced that they knew what they were doing. Oh, how wrong I was.
It was in 2015 that I just happened to see our politicians’ report cards by accident. I read the IMF reports for Barbados and I was shocked to learn that we had been failing as a country for the past 20 years. The IMF informed Barbados and other developing countries that we could use debt to finance our development, but they warned us that our debt should never, under any circumstances, exceed 40% of what we as a country made in one year, which is called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP.
Twenty years ago, the BLP took Barbados past this maximum ceiling that should never have been crossed. However, rather than quickly return to the safety of under 40% GDP before anyone found out, they recklessly and arrogantly took Barbados’ debt to an irresponsible 90% GDP. Why on earth and in heaven did the BLP do this? If they thought that it was necessary for us to cross the 40% maximum limit, then why not ask our permission, or at the very least, inform us. They had no right to plunge all of is into an unsustainable debt and almost ensure that our children will lose this country – no right whatsoever!
Clyde Mascoll recently challenged my figures on ‘Down to Brasstacks’ and shockingly declared that the BLP debt was good debt. I responded that my figures came from the IMF, the same source that he used when he was criticising the BLP for their reckless borrowing when he was leading the DLP. Further, the only good debt was any debt below the safety of the 40% GDP ceiling. Anything over that ceiling was irresponsible and reckless debt. I challenged him to discuss this issue with me at any time. He has yet to respond.
The DLP took the debt baton from the BLP and appear to have simply given up. They have allowed the debt to rise to about 150% GDP, which has taken us to the brink of economic ruin. In this upcoming election, the DLP will claim that they are doing a good job, but the IMF report card shows that they are failing miserably. The BLP will claim that they could do a better job, but the IMF and Moody’s report cards show that they were the ones who actually placed us in this financial mess.
After I read the report cards, I set about publishing solutions to the various problems hindering Barbados’ development, but neither established party appeared to be listening. Peter Boos subsequently offered similar advice, and he was informed that unless he was in the political trenches and got his hands dirty, that he basically had no standing to offer any advice. Since the DLP explained that the only way that they would listen to advice is if I got into the political trench, then into the trench I went.
Solutions Barbados was established in 1 July 2015, primarily to offer good advice to both political parties. However, despite being in the political trench with them, they still would not listen. Therefore, we will assemble 30 responsible persons in order to finally give Barbados voters a competent alternative to the two established parties. We are pleased to announce the following additional candidates: Kenneth Lewis, Leighton Greenidge, Daniel Chalbaud, Cherie Pounder and Betty Howell.