The Grenville Phillips Column – Not Long for This World
All national economies are affected, either for good or bad, by politicians. Our parliamentarians get to decide whether the national economy will be fair or corrupted.
The Government collects taxes, and then spends a significant amount of our taxes to purchase products for our benefit. These products include cars, hospital equipment, cleaning services, spare parts, and consultants’ services, and are purchased with Government contracts.
A fair national economy is one where all citizens can have an equal opportunity to participate. This means that Government contracts for these products are open to all Barbadian companies, and the winner is selected by a fair competitive tender. The national economy becomes corrupted when Government Ministers arrange for contracts to be given to persons who fund their political campaigns.
Since our independence, there has always been a component of Barbados’ economy called the ‘political economy’, which is reserved exclusively for persons who fund political campaigns, and expect Government contracts in return. Both political administrations have maintained this corrupt political economy for their joint benefit.
Once this corrupt political economy remains relatively small, then its impact on the national economy is negligible. Those who choose not to participate in the corrupt political economy believe that they can do nothing to stop it. It is generally understood that anyone who speaks about it will not be long for this world.
Countries do not tend to get into unsustainable debts by meeting the basic needs of their citizens. Instead, they tend to get into such debts due to the greed of their elected politicians, who grow the corrupt political economy to the point where it structurally damages the national economy.
Barbados passed that tipping point decades ago. The likely time was identified in Moody’s 13 Oct 2009 downgrade report as 20 years ago. A section from that first downgrade report under the then new DLP administration follows [emphasis mine].
“Barbados’ KEY DEBT INDICATORS have been on a deteriorating path OVER THE PAST DECADE [1999-2009], and are now at levels that compare poorly with other countries in the same rating category,” said Moody’s Vice President – Senior Analyst Alessandra Alecci. “While the global crisis has clearly exacerbated this trend, the worsening of debt indicators OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME suggests that STRUCTURAL ISSUES are at play. … These include a steady increase in expenditures, INCLUDING OFF-BUDGET, as revenues have remained at roughly the same level in terms of GDP.”
To my knowledge, back in 1999, DLP Leader Clyde Mascoll was the only person in Barbados warning us of the potentially corrupting “off-budget” no-bid contracts being awarded by the BLP administration, and the resulting unsustainable debt. After he defected to the BLP, magically those became “good debts” and the corrupt political economy became mythical.
When it was the DLP’s inevitable turn to form the Government (since there were only two players in the game), they continued this practise to such an extreme level, that it seemed that the corrupt political economy was all that remained. It is now the BLP’s turn and it is left to be seen whether they will maintain the political economy at the DLP’s extreme level, or eliminate it.
When a Government decides who wins in Barbados’ economy, it automatically decides who loses. By repeatedly choosing the worst companies as winners, and the best as losers, that Government can irreparably damage the national economy.
Businesses that decide to participate in the corrupt political economy do not need to provide good-quality products, because they are shielded from competition. Therefore, the public must pay additional taxes for the increasingly poor-quality public services that use these products. Frustrated public workers at the lower end, who are forced to use these sub-standard products, can be wrongfully accused of being inefficient and wasteful.
Since public workers seem to be forbidden from defending themselves publicly, they gain little public sympathy. Therefore, it becomes easier to justify replacing them with new political supporters at the start of each new political administration.
For three years, Solutions Barbados offered to improve the economy by lowering taxes and abolishing the corrupt political economy. The details were published for critical public review. In response, the BLP claimed that Solutions Barbados was not the only political party that planned to effectively address corruption, and promised to meaningfully address it also.
With the support of an inexcusably irresponsible news media, who actively suppressed Solutions Barbados’ consistent message and all of its 28 candidates, the voters rejected the DLP and elected the BLP to fix the mess. It still needs fixing, and the BLP has been allowed an unprecedented unhindered opportunity to do what they promised, namely, to punish corrupt politicians and end the corrupting practise of no-bid contracts. The people can judge their progress for themselves.
If the corrupt political economy is not abolished, then expect Solutions Barbados to once more offer over 20 candidates to the people as a competent alternative. The voters can then finally decide what type of Barbados they want for themselves and their children.