The Science and Technology Festival is currently taking place on the grounds of UWI, Cave Hill under the Graduation tent, it ends today (18th March 2023). The festival is being organized by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Smart Technology and the Faculty of Science and Technology at Cave Hill.
It is a good idea for parents and guardians to expose children to the event anticipating where global demands for skills is headed. For details of the event see the Ministry’s Facebook Page. The event is showcasing the innovation and inventions of Barbadian students up to University level’
Prime Minister Mia Mottley delivered a budget yesterday anchored to a transformation theme. The blogmaster agrees with Professor Justin Robinson’s summary of the budget with one addition. There was no serious mention of the plan to address the recapitalization of NIS.
See summary of Robinson’s budget review.
Robinson: Domestic market the target
GOVERNMENT IS SEEKING to woo the confidence of domestic investors once again, five years after the country underwent its debt restructuring exercise.
This was the takeaway of economics professor Dr Justin Robinson in his analysis of the 2023 Financial Statement And Budgetary Proposals delivered by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Robinson, who was a panellist on the NATION’s State Of Our Nation’s post-Budget analysis, said Government’s announced $74.8 million partial repayment to 5 407 holders of Series B bonds, was in an effort to restore confidence in the domestic investment market.
It was announced earlier this week that public workers represented by the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Barbados Worker’s Union (BWU), Barbados Secondary Teacher’s Union (BSTU) and the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) finalized five months of wage negotiations. The deal reached as reported is 3% increase for the next two years and a lump sum payment of $1,500.00 in the first year. There was also agreement to some non financial terms.
Since the announcement social and traditional media and other voices have been strident in condemning the paltry sums employees at the low end of the scale will be receiving. The blogmaster will always be sympathetic to the plight of workers, however, in this case the question must be asked – was processed followed by the unions involved before agreement with government was finalized?
As far as the blogmaster is aware actors sitting at the negotiating table with government had to take direction from the respective membership bodies before agreeing to close negotiations. The blogmaster would be interested to know if the traditional process of negotiating the wage increase was followed.
The following was received from a BU family member – Blogmaster
The Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the financial year 2023-2024 was laid in Parliament last week. Started in 2019 a new format has been used for the Estimates debate in Barbados. Senior Civil servants are now required to come before the Finance Committee of Parliament to account for each programme being funded by the tax payer and answer any questions which MPs have about programmes or projects for which they have the responsibility of executing. These hearings will begin tomorrow Monday 20th of February as the Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straugh explains in this video. The Minister further gave a preview of the administration’s spending priorities in the coming fiscal year.
After contracting sharply in 2020 by approximately 14 percent due to travel restriction brought about the the Covid 19 pandemic, Barbados’ economy recorded a fairly robust recovery in 2020 of 10.5 percent, meaning, that the economy is still about 3 percent below pre-pandemic levels. In 2022 we also saw a major increase in government revenues, some of which can be attributed to higher economic activity and greater transaction taxes due to elevated consumer prices caused by imported inflation. The projection for 2023 is that the economy might grow by between 4 and 5 percent, if this holds then Barbados could return to or slightly surpass pre-pandemic levels this year.
As the 2023 budget looms, the IMF program BERT 2.0 specially focuses on SOE reform. Is it a coincidence that most SOEs are crying broke? In the Sunday Sun , The general manager of the BWA made some earth shattering revelations in regards to the economic , financial and social survival of the island’s sole water management entity.
The financial state of the water utility company has been hampering its ability to fully tackle water woes in Barbados due to mismanagement of its resources and other structural problems such as cost/price imbalances. Currently the due for disconnection stamps are coming in on water bills for amounts as little as $80. Letters from BWA to collect arrears are destabilizing many households who just can’t afford to clear their BWA arrears.
There’s all justification now for the government to cut the GSC tax on water bills as GM Keithroy Halliday pointed out that the BWA had sought permission to borrow from the Garbage & Sewage Contribution as it was unable to meet its “financial obligations”. The fact that this tax which earned over $344M is being collected directly by the BWA was never transparent.
The financial statements of BWA since last we were informed by Minister Ryan Straughn, are not up to date which is in contravention of the new public financial management act, if found to be so. However the public hardly ever sees financial statements of an entity like BWA so where was it ever transparent ?
Barbadian will have to tarry a while longer for the decision from the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) on whether Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) request for a rate hike will be approved. Yesterday the FTC directed the BL&P to revise some assumptions downward used in calculations presented to support the rate hike application. Although it is premature for consumers to assume which way the win is blowing from the current stage of proceedings, it seems reasonable to assume the hike if approved will not be as significant as originally forecast.
The angst being generated at the prospect of a hike in electricity rates should move the government and Barbadians to appreciate the importance of implementing an effective national energy policy. After many years of talk by successive governments about transforming the Barbados space to one where renewable energy sources are prioritized, it seems we continue to labour to get over the hump in the quest for a relevant mix. It does not take a rocket scientist to anticipate the negative effect on inflation accepting that Barbados is a price taker. It seems the majority of Barbadians are oblivious to the fact a significant percent of what we consume is imported. We buy and sell and the rich merchants live fat off the profit margin.
On the sentimental side, Dr Kevin Greenidge as an ambitious young economist took on a career path and educational training that would have led him to pursue his goal of being elected governor of the central bank of Barbaods. Congratulations to him on achieving his boyhood personal & professional ambition. However, let’s move the conversation past sentiments.
On the Barbados side Dr Kevin Greenidge has been actively involved in providing advice and instruction in respect to the daily management operations of the Central bank of Barbados as just an IMF consultant. The freedom of the central bank to pursue it’s independent agenda has come under scrutiny from the IMF as a need to be more fiscally responsible and free from the government’s budget cycle.
Barbados’ government faces a shortfall in finances, it will not have the use of the central bank’s facilities to bail out the government. Dr. Greenidge’s hallmark will be his role in operating under a new central bank law aimed at cutting the tentacles of the Minister of Finance , cutting his/ her power to hire and fire the governor and allowing the bank to operate on a purely fiscal nature.
◦ Set and implement the monetary, credit, and other financial sector policies ◦ Provide central banking services to the government and financial sector ◦ Develop the financial sector and enhance confidence therein
It is fair to say in the context of Barbados the Central Bank and previous governors have been slaves to government’s directives with the exception of the widely influential Dr. Courtney Blackman. Who can forget the term popularized by Blackman that the position of Governor of the Central Bank “is a creature of the minister of finance’.
At least one minister in the Cabinet of Barbados gets it. Barbados will not or cannot support our standard of living given the traditional heavy reliance on tourism.
Listen to Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir’s 2-minute side-burst from 1hr:12min of his presentation on the floor of the House (24/01/2023). As a member of Cabinet in a parliamentary system that is bound by the convention of collective responsibility, the cadence of Weir’s delivery suggests there is disagreement with his government’s approach.
The Chairperson of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Renee Coppin reacted to the announcement by given support to the increase, BUT, criticized the process. She opined there was a lack of proper consultation with key stakeholders by not giving sufficient time to factor the increase in business planning by those who will be most effected. There was a suggestion the increase could have been implemented after a 90 day disclosure period.
Barbados has been fortunate through the years to avoid significant damage from acts of nature. Until Hurricane Elsa and a freak storm struck Barbados last year, one had to go-back to hurricane Janet of 1955.
Many will argue with justification Barbadians were lulled into complacency, observing weather systems veering from Barbados year after year. The consequence is that a touted Building Code was not followed or enforced with any rigour. The reality is that the quality of the local housing stock is questionable, one that includes a high number of chattel buildings owned mostly by the low income segment.
In 2017 the then leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley stated … “one man cannot get a $24 million contract at Valerie, $28 million housing contract at Grotto; a $42 million molasses storage tank, 20-year contract in the Barbados Bridgetown Harbour… Coverley which is over 1,100 houses at which the government is only receiving less than $2.50 a square foot on the land there; 2,300 lots at Bushy Park that have been committed to in an MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] but mercifully the contract has not been signed [by] the National Housing Commission to give them the lots”. See BU blog – Mark Maloney Take Your Advice, Guhlong.
There is a lot that can be said about Barbadians and the way we manage garbage disposal. The observation is true at the household and country level. In many developed countries garbage is treated as a raw material to convert to energy and in the process contribute to protecting the environment. Prime Minister Mia Mottley has become a spokesperson since being elected to office in 2018 on environmental issues in the international arena, it is therefore ironic that in the country she leads, we continue to oversee a primitive garbage collection AND waste disposal system.
A peeve of the blogmaster is to be subjected to the perennial call from public relations persons employed by the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) – Alf Padmore is the incumbent – asking Barbadians to desist from including green waste in garbage to be collected by the SSA. Nobody ever heeds the calls, including SSA workers, who are always willing to please the many households served. The increase in built-up neighbourhoods in Barbados and concomitant lifestyle guarantee that green waste will be ‘trashed’. Isn’t a manicured lawn integral to the look and feel expected of the heights and terrace?
The following is an update from a BU correspondent with a few edits applied by the blogmaster. It is important we maintain focus on the management of the economy. It is encouraging to observe in recent days the Nation newspaper has been guided to also focus on the economy and related news as Barbadians immerse themselves in matters related to celebrating Christmas. The challenges facing the country will be waiting patiently for a return to more sober ways.
The Estimates for 2022/2023 confirm the common practice in recent decades of successive governments constrained to fund ugly deficits to support our consumption behaviour, graft, financial incompetence/mismanagement exposed in annual Auditor General Reports and Central Bank Reports. The estimates for 2022/2023 read a shortfall of $173. million dollars.
This letter is an issuance of grave concern with the government of Barbados & the IDB Loan seeking to borrow $200 M and the heightened perception of corruption and unethical practices within government.
Taken from the executive summary of transparency international “This year’s corruption perception index paints a grim picture of the state of corruption worldwide. The pandemic is not just a health crises or economic crises but a corruption crises with countless lives loss due to government corruption undermining a fair and equitable response to issues of the day”
A letter to the editor of the Nation newspaper featured on December 7th 2022, submitted by myself Kemar Stuart raised alarm to some sections of a letter to the acting IDB President signed by yourself as minister in the ministry of finance.
Component 4 of the letter to the acting IDB President said that the loan is for economic and fiscal strengthening for post pandemic .The blatant red flag in component 4 of your letter is the use of reason for borrowing this loan which are recommendations from a progress report of the measures prioritized by the jobs and investment council. Investigations into the missing report revealed that at no point in time did this jobs and investment council report or publish their findings and recommendations to the public via consultation / town hall or press conference, written media or else.