The Grenville Phillips Column – Staring Into the Abyss
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados recently hosted economist Ms Marla Dukharan, who determined that Barbados’ debt to GDP ratio was an insane 168%. This places us as one of the most indebted nations on the planet. To put this in perspective, the maximum limit which the IMF warned us not to cross in order to avoid severe austerity was 40%, so we are on the brink of economic ruin.
The main conclusions from Ms Dukharan’s presentation, was that Barbados’ economy has been managed to such a level of extreme incompetence that we have now run out of all good options. The only options available to us are so horribly bad, that the severe austerity can only be described as, to use her word, “poison”. Barbadians will soon long for the days when all we had to suck was salt.
She gave a glimpse of the utter misery that awaits us, by noting that the National Insurance Scheme will not likely be in a financial state to help the masses of Barbadians who are expected to swell the ranks of the unemployed. The previous nine years of austerity have slowly bled most families of their savings. Therefore, most Barbadians are currently in the most vulnerable situation imaginable. It is as if we are being set-up for some sort of terrible judgement.
Why did the BLP get us in this unsustainable debt where the only option was severe austerity? Why did the DLP not take us into the severe austerity nine years ago when the NIS and our savings could have cushioned the worst of it? Some say that we should not review the past, but focus on the future. We are focusing on the future; but voters need to understand that the forecasted austerity was entirely unnecessary.
We have reached this point because of the failure of the BLP and DLP to properly manage the national economy. We all need to be reminded of that fact just in case there is only one Barbadian who is lunatic enough to push Barbados’ economy over the proverbial edge. He needs to be fully aware of what he will do to our children. He needs to be entirely without any excuse, because his irresponsible decision will certainly result in weeping, gnashing of teeth, and hunger for many Barbadians.
Marla is partially correct. Barbadians will suffer the poison of the most severe austerity, but only if they vote for the BLP or the DLP in the next general election. Their development philosophies are no longer relevant to Barbados’ high-debt economy. She recommended that we approach the IMF with dispatch and take the inevitable poison. As the Les Miserables song goes, “Some will fall and some will live” – but how?
Ms Dukharan did not review Solutions Barbados’ plans. This is most regrettable given her conclusions and recommendations. Solutions Barbados is the only political party with an economic plan that does not include the forecasted austerity. It was published for rigorous public scrutiny over two years ago. Given our precarious economic situation, why would she fail to review the only non-austerity plan on the table before concluding that severe austerity is inevitable?
Mr Charles Herbert, leader of the Barbados Private Sector Association, explained their utter frustration with extremely poorly managed government services, and the lack of urgency in addressing Barbados’ critical management problems. He made an impassioned plea for better management.
He is aware of Solutions Barbados’ plan to manage Barbados’ public services to the international management standard, ISO 9001. The moderator, Mr David Ellis, reminded him and the audience that Solutions Barbados had been recommending this management standard for some time. I reminded Mr Ellis and the audience that I had been recommending this standard to the Government for the past 15 years. Why complain about poor management, and then fail to mention this obvious and proven solution to poor management in the public sector?
Since every objective analyst has concluded that voting for either the BLP or DLP in the next general election will trigger the most severe and poisonous austerity for us and our children, why would anyone even contemplate voting for either of them in the next general election?