Austerity is defined as a set of economic policies a government implements to control public sector debt. Austerity measures are the response of a government whose public debt is so large that the risk of default, or the inability to service the required payments on its debt obligations, becomes a real possibility. Default risk can spiral out of control quickly; as an individual, company or country slips further into debt, lenders will charge a higher rate of return for future loans, making it more difficult for the borrower to raise capital.
One of the outcomes from an austerity program is criticism from those impacted. This blogmaster addressed the climate at play in the local environment in which BERT is being aggressively implemented by the government – The Rhetoric of Austerity.
Until there is improvement in the economy which took a precipitous dive under the last DLP administration, it is the right of the people and other stakeholders in civil society to express concerns. As always, government’s mandate is to implement policies to breath and sustain life in the economy and supporting sectors.
So far the Barbados austerity program has been following the script. The blogmaster has added our dissenting voice to those criticizing the prime minister for allowing her father to be conferred a knighthood. Against the background of the imbroglio of waiver of tax penalties to Elliot Mottley. And of recent the significant hike in the bus fare, a measure that will impact the most vulnerable in the society. Government’s remit will never change, the vulnerable MUST be protected – Pay the $3.50 or Alternatively Drink the Poison.
Another enduring criticism of the Mia Mottley led administration since the unprecedented mandate from the people on May 24, 2018 has been the size of her Cabinet. It is easily the largest in the world per capita in the world. Mottley’s response at the time of the announcement was – “Given the dire state of our economy and the tremendous work that would be involved in rescuing and rebuilding this country, the salaries of a few extra ministers is relatively insignificant given that there will be tremendous savings from the containment of wastage and the curtailment of corruption in my Cabinet”.
An effective Opposition should file Mottley’s promise and use it to measure government’s performance of the country in the coming months. In summary, if the Prime Minister holds the view that many hands make light work, during a time of austerity the optics of decisions and the uninspiring and demotivating influence they may be having must be evaluated AND reassessed if the situation demands it. Does the political reward of employing an unprecedented number of ministers, supported by a bevy of consultants worth the risk of voter disaffection?
The point about the size of the Cabinet is important, it will continue to generate criticism for another reason. The Prime Minister to her credit has demonstrated a high work rate since assuming the office. This cannot be refuted by a simple measure if compared to a slothful predecessor. She is leading the CSME project, meeting with IMF, World bank and other global players and the list is long. What is disturbing is that Prime Minister Mottley has had to insert her presence into many ministries to lead the narrative or resolve ‘disputes’. Why should she have a large Cabinet if she is always exerting the influence of being in primus inter pares mode?
One example that should give the Prime Minster pause is the meeting called recently with stakeholders in the transport sector. A meeting to deal with the public backlash to the $3.50 bus far hike. Another meeting she had to intervene.
Prime Minister Mottley continues to enjoy good public support informed by the fact John Citizen is aware tough measures have to be taken. And a discombobulated Opposition. Mottley will have to tread clearly to ensure her policies do not create so much opposition that it railroads what she is attempting to do. Perhaps a midterm reshuffle is in the offing.
A word to the Prime Minister should be enough.