The Grenville Phillips Column – Let Sleeping Dogs Sleep
We should celebrate good news, and the recent upgrades by international rating agencies is good news, especially after a decade of consistent downgrades. So, well done BLP.
Despite their partisan behaviour during the last general election, the national watch dogs are whispering a word of caution. However, before we review their caution, let us put Barbados’ economic situation in context.
The only economic plan that the BLP had before the last general election was to seek funding from the IMF. To secure those funds as soon as possible, the BLP took the risk of defaulting on our foreign loans. That gamble worked for them, but we must endure a severe austerity plan.
Our foreign reserves appear healthy mainly because we are borrowing foreign currency to repay foreign creditors, but we are refusing to pay them. The BLP is hoping that the foreign creditors will be as compliant as the managers of our pension and retirement savings plans, who voted to allow the Government not to pay us all of what we are owed.
Eventually we will be forced to repay our foreign creditors. In the meantime, the accumulated foreign reserves have given the BLP sufficient time to improve the management of public services, which can facilitate economic growth. This time should allow the Government to repay our foreign creditors from revenues accumulated from a larger economy.
So far, the BERT plan of raising taxes and laying off persons is not growing the economy, but hindering growth. The BERT spokespersons keep reminding us that their austerity plan has no other option but to work. That is because they placed all our eggs in the IMF basket, and have stated that they will not consider any other economic solution.
Once the IMF money is exhausted and there is still no economic growth, then there are no good options for us. Our national watch dogs, who overdosed on partisan political pills before the general election, are finally waking up to the foreseen economic ruin that lies before us if BERT fails.
In 2002, Lynette Eastmond was director of International Business when Barbados was negotiating international trade agreements. To her credit, she invited private sector representatives to help prepare Barbados to compete internationally. My assigned responsibility was to prepare the professional services sector of the economy to be internationally competitive.
I chaired a committee comprising leaders of 25 professional associations in Barbados. For the next three months, we collectively donated $0.5M of our time, and prepared a comprehensive report detailing the strategies and actions that each private sector stakeholder should pursue to be internationally competitive. It also included the critical actions that the Government needed to complete in the immediate, medium and long terms to facilitate this economic growth. The principles are relevant to all sectors of the Barbados economy.
The plan worked exactly as designed for those who chose to implement it. I led from the front by becoming the first person to qualify as a Chartered Structural Engineer in 15 years in Barbados. I then trained others, including my competitors, to successfully achieve the same international qualification.
Our firm became the first service company in the Caribbean to attain the ISO 9001 quality management standard, for which we won the BIDC’s Exceptional Quality award. I subsequently worked on projects worth over $500,000,000 over the next 5 years, and earned foreign currency in 10 Caribbean countries.
I continue to benefit from following that plan. For several years, over 80% of my earnings were in foreign currency. It was principally due to that plan that I was the 2014 winner of the National Innovation Competition, and president of Walbrent College.
When the economic ruin of Barbados was foreseen, I prepared an economic growth plan and tried to share it with the last DLP administration, but they would not listen. That growth plan became the backbone of Solutions Barbados’ economic plan, where we could repay all of our local and foreign creditors in full, by growing the national economy for the benefit of all, not just the few. The plan’s only vulnerability was political corruption; hence the reason for a contract against corruption for Solutions Barbados candidates.
We appealed to the national watch dogs to honestly evaluate all plans, including ours, but they would not. The BCCI responded by passing a new regulation to exclude everyone except members of Parliament from talking to their members about the economy. (Are they not the least capable to do so?). ICAB, BES and BBA followed BCCI’s lead by refusing to allow us anywhere near their members, and the established media essentially shut us out.
I write 52 articles every year, but only a handful ever make it past their editors. So, we post our articles on Facebook to this limited audience, and appreciate everyone who reads, comments or shares.
After their shameful politically partisan behaviour, our national watchdogs are timidly suggesting to the BLP that in the midst of their celebrations, they should perhaps consider thinking about strategies to grow the national economy. They should either tell us something that we do not already know – or go back to sleep.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com