Austerity has had nothing to do with economics. It was about getting out from under welfare. It’s about politics abandoning vulnerable people.
– Barry Kushner, a Labour Party councilman in Liverpool
The political campaign in Barbados crescendoed to its unprecedented result last week. First time in our history a political party won all the seats contested. The euphoria of the win for 70% of those who voted has receded. The reality of going to the supermarket to buy food, pay the mortgage, avoid potholes which dot our highways and byways to compete with the joy of living in a tropical paradise.
In a boast by the major political parties, Barbadians were promised that policy prescriptions are available to fix all of our problems in the near time- yes with a little sacrifice from all our people. In the sharp glare of the post election period again there is the reality that for the last – approximately – ten years, Barbadians have had to suffer austerity measures. The prospect of having to suffer more belt tightening- though not appealing- appears to be required given the chronic nonperforming domestic economy.
As a boy attending secondary school, we were taught that the mixed economy of Barbados with its rich social services offering mirrored what obtained in Britain at the time. Over the years as preferential arrangements with the Mother country were retired, leaving our small islands to compete in an era of globalization, a lack of fiscal disciple of the public and household purses have seen an increase in debt. This has inevitable led to our ability to sustain the standard of life we have become addicted to in the 80s, 90s and 2000s.
The negative effect poor of budgeting at the household level will impact a family’s ability to satisfy its day to day needs to put food on the table, pay the bills, send the children to school, credit rating at the bank etc, the same can will be mirrored at the country level. Barbados is reported to be the third highest indebted country the world and the highest in the Caribbean region. We have been hit with a junk credit rating by the international rating agencies, AND, an a visit to the lone primary care hospital sees patients being feed dry bread and corn beef for lunch and sometimes dinner.
What Barbados has had to endure with a poorly performing economy in the period 2008 to 2018 is unprecedented. We can debate if the current state of the economy was caused by Arthur’s injudicious spending under his fourteen year rein, whether it was the incompetence if the former administration that was unceremoniously booted from office last week or both. We are at a point, we have to fix it. This is where the more academic writer writes that this is a seminal moment for the country.
The link to the above NY Times article was forwarded to the blogmaster by longtime BU family member Jah Ras Jahaziel Tafari. The article paints a picture of what happens to a country – Britain in this case – when it seeks to manage by the numbers to reduce its debt burden and deficit. It is a long article, worth the read.
- Historic building are being refashioned, sold, razed to convert state assets to cash
- Open public spaces community spaces sold to developers
- Budgets of state entities aggressively slashed (this includes to welfare department)
- Rapid downsizing with ‘itinerant jobs replacing full-time positions’ and ‘voluntarism outnumbering paid staff’
Read the article for more.
The thesis of the article is about the debilitating impact of austerity measures on a society. In Barbados we have experienced similarly.
- Sewage on the street
- Infrequent collection of garbage because the SSA is unable to buy garbage trucks
- Deep potholes on our roads
- Unreliable public transportation
- Increasing number of vagrants and homeless people
- Unavailability of drugs on the formulary because government is unable to pay suppliers
- 40% reduction in enrollment at tertiary institution
The article ends with an the ominous warning that austerity is here to stay!
This is Britain, this is Barbados.