The Grenville Phillips Column – Why is the Private Sector Recommending Austerity?
Both established parties, some of the newer ones, and almost all Barbadian and foreign based economists are warning Barbadians to brace for severe austerity measures. Several prominent economists are even calling for a devaluation of Barbados’ dollar as a way to address our dire economic problems. Surprisingly, none of these entities are being challenged to provide a plan showing how or when their austerity recommendations will end. Instead, Barbadians are essentially being told to just shut-up and prepare to get used to their austerity plans.
Solutions Barbados has published the only non-austerity plan for Barbados’ economy, and it has undergone approximately 2 years of rigorous public scrutiny. It requires no laying-off of public workers, no reduction of their salaries, and no national disruption. The plan has been shared with the NUPW, CTUSAB, and anyone who would listen, with overwhelmingly favourable responses. Therefore, it is highly irresponsible for persons to be advocating austerity, and it is reckless for persons to be recommending something as radical as devaluation, without them first discussing the only non-austerity published option on the proverbial table.
Why won’t they discuss our published non-austerity solutions? I understand why the political parties won’t discuss our solutions, because they have their own political agendas. However, why won’t members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) discuss them? This one group will be most impacted by our plans, yet we were told that since we were not yet elected, we could not be allowed to share our plans with BCCI members.
That decision is regrettable – for them. However, it is near lunacy for them to then join with the Barbados Private Sector Association and recommend austerity for the rest of us. Why are these, and other private sector groups, so eager to push austerity measures, rather than to discuss our non-austerity plan? It makes no rational sense. What could they possibly be afraid of?
For the past two years, we have encouraged discussion, even criticism of our policy solutions in order that they may be improved. However, we have found that a specific set of persons ‘run away’ from discussion, and flippantly dismiss our solutions as too simple in order to stifle discussion. Let me confirm that all of our solutions were consciously designed to be as simple as possible – but not simplistic.
When approaching a problem, the first step is to design a solution that works. This initial effective solution is normally complex. The problem with complex solutions is that they are normally implemented poorly, because they are too complex for those responsible for their implementation. Complex solutions are also normally more expensive to both implement and maintain.
If the aim is the efficient and economical implementation of an effective solution, then the solution needs to be made as simple as possible. This requires repeated iterations of complex analysis in order to reduce the solutions’ complexity and implementation costs, while maintaining or improving its effectiveness. This is the approach that I have successfully taken over my 25-year structural engineering career.
Analysts of Barbados Government operations generally conclude that our principal problem is one of implementation. What do we expect if we persist in giving our public workers unnecessarily complex plans to implement? Why does Government insist on developing these highly complex plans? Why would anyone design a highly complex plan when a simpler one would be more effective, more economical to implement, and less of a tax burden on Barbadians? Why indeed.