Barbados: Debt Warning, Foreign Reserves Watch
The latest chatter on the local newsfeed is about Barbados’ scheduled repayment of $928 million dollars by end of 2029. To avoid attracting the wrath of government’s senior economic advisor Dr. Kevin Greenidge, Barbados borrowed $870 million since 2018, the difference of $58 million is interest due supporting Greenidge’s argument that IMF money is the cheapest in town if compared to what is available on the open capital market.
The blogmaster is happy to observe the concern being expressed by all and sundry about the accumulation of the public debt- foreign and local- by the BLP government since 2018. However, we should not forget how we got here.
Successive governments have been responsible for our current debt level which is reported to be about $13 billion. Barbadians have been reassured by Greenidge the $870 millions borrowed from the IMF represents a small 6.4% of total debt. Wonderful. The government has stoutly defended the borrowing by reminding the debt level was 18 billion when the Mottley government took office in 2018. Ideally if the pay down was from earnings, we could be satisfied the country was positively addressing repayment BUT it was largely due to a debt restructure.
We read retired professor UWI Michael Howard skepticism presented in the press this week and Dr. Robinson had his say in today’s Nation. The debt is too high. However given the design and current state of the local economy it is a problem we will have to tolerate for a generation or two IF corrective measures are taken now.
A more immediate concern is protecting the health of the foreign reserves. The longer the conflict between Ukraine and Russia continues and serves to undermine the global financial market and disrupt global supplies to small island developing states, there is a chance of foreign reserves being compromised. It was reported the increase in import cost of fuel for Q1’22 compared to last year was significant. The the root of the debt accumulated is successive governments lazily satisfying the conspicuous consumption behaviour of citizens. Citizens have skin in this game.
The crisis that is unfolding in Sri Lanka should remind small developing countries like Barbados what is possible. This week the government of Sri Lanka banned the sale of fuel for two weeks. A person does not have to be ‘smart’ to understand the implications of making such a drastic decision.
Sri Lanka suspends fuel sales for two weeks as economic crisis worsens
Ban on sales to everything except essential services comes as nation tries to conserve fuel supplies that are barely enough to last a single day
A Sri Lankan security official stands guard outside a fuel station that ran out of petrol in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Monday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Agence France-PresseTue 28 Jun 2022 01.30 BSTLast modified on Wed 29 Jun 2022 05.10 BST
Cash-strapped Sri Lanka has announced a two-week halt to all fuel sales except for essential services and called for a partial shutdown as its unprecedented economic crisis deepened.
The south Asian nation is facing its worst economic meltdown since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, and has been unable to finance even the imports of essentials since late last year.
As fuel reserves hit rock bottom with supplies barely enough for just one more day, government spokesperson Bandula Gunawardana said the sales ban was to save petrol and diesel for emergencies.
He urged the private sector to let employees work from home as public transport ground to a halt.
“From midnight today, no fuel will be sold except for essential services like the health sector, because we want to conserve the little reserves we have,” Gunawardana said in a prerecorded statement.
He apologised to consumers for the shortages: “We regret the inconvenience caused to the people.”