Introduction: As the IMF troops gather at the gate, the people of Barbados have little time to reflect on how a once proud nation has found itself in this economic mess. But, as night follows day, it had to come; it is a modern-day example of Sodom and Gomorrah, of a people living so much beyond their means, partying and fornicating, that they forgot how hard work and good ethical behaviour has its rewards. For the national decline is not just economic, only that this time it is manifesting itself in an economic meltdown, but it goes right across the range of our social and cultural values. Although we can blame the 14 years of the Arthur administration for sowing the seeds of this predictable car crash, and rightly so, after nearly six years in government the DLP government can no longer use that excuse. The failure to manage the economy is theirs and theirs alone, first with the Thompson regime being caught off guard when it won the general election, and the political ignorance of Freundel Stuart to impose his mark on the post-Thompson government. But we are where we are and it is no good crying over lost opportunities. However, to kick off this period of tighter fiscal controls, government should impose a Bds$50m windfall tax on the commercial banks and use that money to fund a post Office bank; also encourage the credit unions to establish a joint credit union bank, both operating on balance sheet principles.
Chris Sinckler, Minister of Finance (l) Fruendel Stuart, Prime Minister (r)
I am fully aware that the decision to get rid of over 3000 civil servants will be met with great applause by those citizens who for decades have believed that our civil servants are not up to scratch with their service to the public. It is a position that I do not share personally. I am also aware that those calling for privatization will now feel they were justified. In my humble opinion, that is nothing more than bunkum because our economy is already heavily privatized and we are still in the debt trap.
Many crocodile tears will be shed by the same frauds, who shed tears over the imposition of tuition fees on the poor, mainly black students at Cave Hill, University of the West Indies. These are the same political charlatans who would abolish free bus fares for school children, who were missing school because their parents had no money. They are the same ones who are now trying to convince us that domestic violence is only found among the poor and poorly educated. It follows a pattern that whenever there is a problem within the society, they zoom in on the poor.
The simple truth is that the economy has been in need of desperate restructuring for at least since the mid seventies. The BLP/DLP government has failed at every given opportunity to reform or restructure the economy .We have a system of sophisticated political largesse that caters to the now emerged upper middle class political managers, who have taken friendship and social contacts, to a level of sycophancy, that we have never before witnessed in our island state!
It is never easy to take tough decision which would affect the livelihood of those affected. From the start of the economic recession, the Democratic Labour Party’s administration had always said it would seek to maintain the social safety net and the sending home of persons from the public service would be a last resort so that government could maintain the employment levels in the country as long as possible.
For more than six years, the Democratic Labour Party administration maintained that promise while it introduced policies to restructure the economy of Barbados and position it on a sustainable growth path. This restructuring process which was long overdue is now being undertaken in the midst of the most turbulent, global economic recession which the world has seen in over a hundred years. Naturally, the journey has not been smooth sailing.
From the start of the economic recession our financial experts reminded us of the importance of protecting our international reserves. We were able to do this with reserves consistently above 16 week of imports from 2008 to June 2013. This was a major economic victory in the face of an unsettled global economic climate. This provided the cushion for government to continue its role in maintaining employment levels and the social safety net while putting policies in place to sure up revenue earning and controlling government’s expenditure in areas of goods and services, transfers and subsidies.
We recall well, between sleep and wake, nightmares of the slaughter of our teams, by the great Australians of the 60’s and 70’s. But this New Zealand team of 2013 is the opposite of the Australians, and yet, the expectation of capitulation remains our constant companion, in this battlefield of dreams, especially at this time of the year.
Last test match the West Indies Cricket Team succumbed for the umpteenth time, over the last two decades, to a less than viable opposition. This cultural rot will only stop when we properly locate its causation firmly in the laps of the administration of the West Indies Cricket Board (of Control) (WICB) and take concerted actions to excise the underlying cancer of this prolonged and institutionalized failure.
Since the coup that ended the ‘Age of Dominance’ the cricket establishment in the Caribbean has not produced one single player worthy of that epoch. What we have had is the constant recycling of average pretenders totally removed from the mind set of Worrell, Lloyd and Richards. The warrior mentality has been stripped from them, by executive design. The coup plotters of 1991 and their descendants continue to destroy West Indies cricket at all levels. So the largesse of team management could be directed to a Richie Richardson, the instrument of the plot which relocated effective power from players to administration.
Landowners who ignore Government’s warnings to debush their vacant lots will be named, shamed, and even forced to pay a fine if they want to ever develop or sell that property. “Tired of people not responding to appeals to clear their land, Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, said that his ministry was ready to take action. He said he had received a report about 25 undeveloped lots in the Southern Heights, Christ Church, community – just one example of several cases of delinquency all across the island – Source:Page 3 of “Barbados Today”, dated 28 November, 2013
I would suggest that the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage remove the log in its own eye before looking at the mope in in the eyes of private landowners. A prime example of Government’s delinquency is the building from which the BTA has moved. It is overrun with grass, and the trees are hanging over the sidewalk. That is very unsightly, especially that that area is a very high-traffic one.
Will the Minister of Housing be “named and shamed and be forced to pay a fine” if he does not “move with haste to clean up that ministry’s lots”?
The mahogany Coconut Group extends sincere holiday and New Year greetings to David and the BU family. We are also extending greetings to all those who contribute and are keeping democracy alive throughout the Caribbean. The MCG is not, as we have said on many occasions, interested in “I told you so…” pontifications.
However, we are extremely proud that we have been in the forefront of several issues : violence against women, children and the elderly; exposing the incestuous and visionless political parties in the region; finally getting others to recognize that there can be no sustainable development without a reformed approach to education; defending the right to freedom of expression, by standing as one with BU and other blogs; exposing the complicit role that major corporations such as Neal and Massy (Barbados Shipping and Trading) have played in wrecking regional economies and we have continued to maintain that the Caribbean is one Nation .
Another year comes to a close, with the same players offering the same solutions, and expecting different results. The simple truth is that those who cut their teeth on old and irrelevant economic teachings, and who have not contributed anything to modern economic models and governance, are essentially ill equipped to save the region from the present malaise. We may seem harsh on them but they have not demonstrated any capacity to get our regional economies moving in positive directions.
By personal choice, I have not written recently on the social, political, or economic factors heavily impacting on Bajans, but I have observed the callous and perhaps reckless approach to governance by the DLP. The DLP regime has targeted the poor, the middle class, and there has been concerted effort by Cabinet to dismantle the gains achieved under the BLP. I am concerned, and particularly over the assault on Barbadian workers and their livelihoods. Nonetheless, the latest pronouncements and ensuing policies that have emerged from the DLP’s political machinery and from within central cogs of the Barbados Cabinet demand unfettered commentary. This I owe it to my fellow men and women regardless of their political persuasion.
I begin by stating my ‘critical’ bemusement at the ridiculous phrasing employed by the Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler. In his Ministerial Statement delivered to the Parliament of Barbados on Friday, December 13th, 2003, Sinckler said to the Lower House that he was “mindful” that the beleaguered DLP Cabinet had “completed the first three months of implementation” of the ‘restructuring programme’ which he had announced previously in the contentious budget delivered on August 13th, 2013. Sinckler, strikingly claimed that he was “happy to lay, along with this [Ministerial] statement, a report in matrix form, outlining the progress we [the DLP Cabinet and administration] have made to date on the implementation of the measures” announced in the August budget.
Just over a week ago, my wife and I experienced a staycation at Sandals Casuarina. An enormous amount of discussion has taken place concerning the extraordinary concessions granted to the Sandals companies and as I was not personally familiar with the product thought it was important that I tasted what is often referred to as the Sandals ‘WOW’ factor first hand.
Despite the website [Sandals] at the time showing that the hotel was fully booked until the middle of March 2014, I managed to reserve a room online for the dates of my choice and pay in full at published rates by credit card. Bookings are processed by yet another company, Unique Vacations Inc., based in Florida and an email confirmation was sent. Noticeably absent were any taxes or corporate information, including office address or contact details.
Having a few queries prior to our stay I emailed Adam Stewart, the CEO of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) and within minutes he responded personally apologising that because he was currently travelling, he had passed my concerns over to the General Manager (GM) of the hotel. Still within one hour, Josef Zellner, the new GM not only answered my initial questions but went on to monitor our reservation and ensure a seamless check-in.
“Carson Anthony Ismael….had pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier in the Continuous Assizes. Calista Alleyne, whose throat was cut, died on May 26, 2010. Ismael had previously been convicted of causing the death of his former wife Kirani Ismael back in January 2007. The charge had been assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was sentenced to 16 months in jail for that offense, suspended for two years.” “Study ordered on manslayer”, Midweek Nation
“How dare someone take the life of someone else in a jealous rage and then follow it up with the most cowardly act of drinking a poisonous substance, unable to face the consequences of one’s actions?” Janelle Husbands, December 10 Advocate
Consequences, Ms. Husbands? In Barbados? Where the Director of Public Prosecutions is only too eager to see manslayers as opposed to murderers? Where the average sentence for men who kill their partners is 5 years in prison? Where in an understatement of appalling proportions Mr. Ismael, who has now killed two female partners in less than five years, is deemed in need of “anger management counseling” in the probation report furnished to the court. Really?! Only in Islamic countries would the leniency shown to the killers of women in Barbados seem harsh.
As you know the global economy continues to experience challenges and my government remains committed to do all that we can to ensure Barbados manages this economy the best we can in the circumstances. In this regard I take this opportunity to throw my full support behind my ministers especially Minister Chris Sinckler and Richard Sealy who have done an exceptional job in challenging conditions.
My Cabinet took the decision after our meeting with the IMF on their recent Article IV Consultation and the NUPW that we should advise Barbadians about the retrenchment at this time. The fact that Barbadians are about to celebrate the Christmas season was not a consideration to delay the decision because I wanted you to know we have taken proactive action to arrest the deteriorating fiscal position.
When judged against the harsh background of adversarial politics, only two prime ministers of Barbados (who led the country for 7 years or more) can lay claim to being able to escape the clutches of the IMF for the entire period of their rule – Errol Barrow and Owen Arthur.
Say whatever you will, it is an undeniable fact that Barrow and Arthur were able to utilize whatever resources they had available at their disposal without plunging the Barbadian economy into disequilibrium. This achievement in itself represents a public demonstration of their political and economic skills. One was from the DLP, and the other is from the BLP, but we must commend and applaud both of them equally for distinguishing themselves in this regard.
Borrowing, taxation, and easily accessible NIS funds were the main resources available to Barrow, Arthur, and all Ministers of Finance. Naturally these resources varied in amount as administrations came and went.
By the time the David Thompson administration assumed office in early 2008, the world had changed drastically. Volatility and uncertainty had become so widespread that the Governor of the Central Bank informed and warned all Barbadians that the macroeconomic models used to analyze and predict outcomes under the “old” economic order, were no longer applicable.
The respected Bloomberg posted the headline [13/12/2013] Barbados Debt Higher Than Cyprus Prompts Firing of 3,000. The preamble to the article reads “Barbados will fire 3,000 public sector workers by March and freeze wages as the eastern Caribbean island’s debt burden soars and the International Monetary Fund says “urgent adjustments” are needed.” BU recalls in 2010 the suggestion to government to consider freezing public sector wages was mooted. In fact Minister David Estwick was publicly rapped on the knuckles for making the suggestion. The late Prime Minister David Thompson addressed the matter of wage freeze in his first press conference in 2010 – see Prime Minister David Thompson’s First Press Conference in 2010.
Where we find ourselves, AGAIN will provoke the usual political cackle from participants in the diluted Westminster system of government we practice. In fact, leading political scientists and pundits will rationalize the political cackle as NORMAL, emanating from an adversarial system borrowed from a colonial past. Despite years of investing i education we have given little thought to changing the system of governance which continues to be a polarising force in a 2×3 country given how irrelevant it has become.
The national discussion will now mirror the tenor of the 90s when another DLP administration took the decision to slash public sector wages by 8% and jettison 8,000 public sector employees. Lessons learned you think? ‘Go to the ant thou sluggard…’.
The BU household always focuses on the part of the issue which Barbadians feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it explains why traditional media and prominent people in society read and contribute to BU but with a hushed involvement. This is the hypocrisy which supports a mendicant culture which is no longer relevant in a today’s world. No more preferential treatment from the More Developed Countries (MDCs) and no more lack of competition from the Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs).
The sending home of 3,000 public sector workers is not the solution to the problems which confront Barbados, it is a manifestation of one of many symptoms which ail the nation. If there is one issue where there is consensus, it is that our economy has some deep flaws which must be addressed. Even the head of government’s economic advisory council has publicly admitted this to be the case. It seems to BU this was a good place to have started the discussion regarding a strategic economic approach in 2008. Looking forward, where do we go from here full in recognition that there is no silver bullet?
All other things being equal Sinckler will be repeating doses of his snake oil in coming months. This first tranche comes mere months after the last budget. Of course, there could be an intervention by the people of Barbados in their own defense, but that is unlikely to happen, though it may prove unavoidable. To us it seems that Sinckler and indeed the Government of Barbados is stubbornly unwilling to address the fundamental issues at work. As the proverbial neo-Keynesian, it remains impossible for Sinckler to see that another economic world is possible. We are lock step in a death march off a cliff. The words of Dr. Kennedy are indeed proven true by Sinckler’s admission today that his recent budget was a national mis-direction.
Almost without exception, the entire civilised world came to a standstill on the sudden, but not unexpected death of Nelson Mandela. Only one nation failed to express any condolence and its prime minister, for security reasons, did not see fit to attend the formal service. But most people, through the developed and developing world, paid homage to the former South African president and US president, Barack Obama, used his full oratorical skills to remind us why Mr Mandela was seen as such a great man. Most emphasis was on has almost Biblical sense of forgiveness, a moral act that compares with any other person throughout human history. How could he, after 27 years of incarceration by one of the most savage regimes the world has ever seen, find it in his heart to forgive his oppressors? That he did so showed how he dug in to the recesses of his soul to find that kindness, courage, the ability to turn the other cheek, that this we all, black and white, rich and poor, old and young, are now agreed was exceptional.
But Mr Mandela was more than the forgiving angel, which undoubtedly he was; he was also someone with a deep respect for all he encountered, as we are told; he had humility and humour, understanding and foresight, and, of course, an ability to forgive which gave him that special public moral authority. But questions remain: moral duty often involves conflicting moral pressures: is forgiveness superior to justice?
In September of 2012 as I was preparing to go on preretirement leave and as the word got around, I was approached by a number of concerned citizens, government officials and businessmen regarding what I was going to do with my knowledge and experience. I was told that I should not take all of my knowledge and experience to the grave. I was advised that I should re-open a learning facility to undertake training in the garment and business field. I thought long and hard over the issue and came to the conclusion that God would not be happy with me if I did not honour that request to my fellow countrymen and women.
In November of 2012, I was advised to submit an application to BIDC Small Business Centre for space to conduct the training, as there was space available there for such small businesses. I submitted the application and was told then that there is a committee that meets monthly whom I would have to meet with, before an approval could be made. Well a year has passed and I am yet to hear from BIDC in any form or fashion regarding my application. Meanwhile, I am constantly being bombarded by members of the public when I am going to start training.
Unfortunately for the public and the country, due to a lax or inefficient public system; where work is not of a high priority for some workers and where some workers are paid only to be present at work and not producing, causing productivity to be actually non-existent within some government departments in the public service and which needs to be addressed if the country is to go forward.