Barbadians, ALL Together NOW!

…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”…

BU Commenter: John A

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



Political Parties about Boosting Popularity in a Crisis

… Kevin Greenidge, explained that the “win-win” 18-month programme is designed to repurpose government’s expenditure, in an effort to push capital programmes that do not directly relate to tourism; for example, road works, the Barbados Water Authority’s vineyard project, the refurbishment of schools and the digitization of the public sector…

Source: BGIS

The government launched the Barbados Optional Savings Scheme (BOSS) last week. BOSS is a direct response to the crippling effect the COVID 19 pandemic has had on the global economy. All economies in the world have had to manage the fallout from the unprecedented high unemployment to respond to a man made economic recession triggered to safeguard public health.

The blogmaster has listened to arguments for and against the BOSS and the trend for every issue these days is determined by ones political inclination.

What the COVID 19 pandemic has done to is to create an unknown variable that makes it impossible for policymakers and individual households alike to engage in sensible financial planning and forecasting. However, what is known is that a deep revenue hole has been created in the financial budget for 2020/2021 and there is nobody on the planet who can predict the time it will take for economic activity to climb to pre Covid 19 level. The result is that whether in the USA, UK or Barbados unemployment has spiked.

The blogmaster is no fan of policies that will result to increasing the national debt or printing money. Especially coming after the recent debt restructuring that has had a toll. However, Barbados must execute  policies to boost economic activity to buy time until the global economy to respond. Will BOSS achieve the objective,  time will tell. What are the alternatives to BOSS?

It is easy for political leaders and others in civil society to shout at John Citizen do not do this, do not do that. If one listens to the same crew for alternatives, there is silence.

Service based economies like Barbados are presented with a greater challenge of recovery because there will be a dampened appetite for air and sea travel. It means thousands of workers will be negatively affected for months and years to come, there is no doubt. BOSS should not be seen as a panacea to solving all of our problems, it is meant to be a mitigant, to keep public sector workers employed are redirect circulation of monies in the construction sector. The government has accepted the moral responsibility – for now – to keep public servants employed during the pandemic. Those criticizing that cutting public sector workers salary is illegal, give us the alternative. If it is illegal the law can be amended for the good of all? The private sector has already responded with lay-offs and severing employees. Where does the government derive tax revenues tom pay public servants?

It would be negligent of the blogmaster not to take the opportunity to express concern about the financial state of the National Insurance Fund. The noise created by the pandemic has served to mask many of the problems the island had been battling. The inability of successive NIS Boards and governments to make public audited financial statements should be of equal concern by several of the budding political parties and traditional media. Do we know if the fund is able to live up to its tagline? Why should politicians on a whim and a fancy make decisions to grab NIS funds- our social security monies- to construct unnecessary buildings; fire station, lend to private projects; Four Seasons by avoiding rigorous qualification.

For as long as BU has had a presence in the Barbados space there has been a view echoed by the BU intelligentsia that Barbados is a country living above its pay grade. The blogmaster has to express disappointment that leaders in our tiny society have not been bold enough to address the issue of the need to recalibrate our unsustainable lifestyle. Politicians seem stuck in the mode of boosting popularity at the expense of what is in the national interest.