…The discussion must turn to how can we run a country on 25% less revenue than planned over the next 2 years. It does not have to come to layoffs either. It can come from improved tax collection, greater efficiency etc. It does not have to be a case of just “sending home people”…
What has has been weighing on the blogmaster’s mind in recent weeks you ask?
In light of the Covid 19 pandemic most economies in the world have been negatively affected whether service based, commodity driven or combination of the two. The result is that citizens will have to make sacrifices until ‘normalcy’ is achieved. This is particularly true for the most vulnerable people in society – the indigent and sick.
The 500 million dollar projected shortfall in government’s budget as a consequence of the prevailing adverse economic conditions is a reality not many Barbadians have come to grips if one listens to public discussion. Made more acute the country is suffering from economic fatigue after a severe debt restructure and a decade or more of economic wutlessness.
Obviously government has a moral obligation to find ways to keep workers employed. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that changes – especially if unplanned – to the tax base will negatively impact revenues therefore compromising government’s financial obligations to pay for public goods and services.
Government’s ability to collect taxes is also affected by a performing private sector. If the private sector contracts for any reason by shutting down businesses or sending home workers, contributions to government’s tax/NIS revenues will adversely impact finances. Covid 19 has created the perfect challenge for all governments including Barbados.
Having mentioned the economic and fiscal hurdles facing the country, it is easy to forget the social challenges that have inevitably resulted to make governing more complex.
The country is currently embroiled in a discussion about the details of how the proposed Barbados Optional Savings Scheme (BOSS) will be implemented. The success of BOSS and other fiscal measures are simply that, short term. If the global economy is lazy to respond to recovery it means SIDs like Barbados will have big problems as it burns cash in hand (reserves) to pay salaries and other unsustainable activities to maintain a reasonable standard of living. More and more rehashed commentary about how successive governments have built the economy on sand, encourage covert corruption and fuelled a culture of political patronage or a country living above its means will surface. This will make for good political discussion, however, does not make for constructive debate in the unprecedented climate we find ourselves.
The lengthy preamble to the thesis is – as a people are we capable of pivoting from the type of vacuous national discourse we have become accustomed to be replaced by one that is apropos?
A good place to start is to work at disrupting old thought patterns that encourage same old same outcomes. Easier said than done but is must be done if we are to survive as a nation out here in the global rat race.
…Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country…
John F. Kennedy