Barbadians are now getting some external scrutiny of the economic mess the nation is in and shining a torch in those cobwebbed corners is not a happy site. According to the recent IMF report, government has finally committed itself to a number of key proposals, but these still remain opaque and unarticulated, even if they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to admit there are in a deep economic hole. However they may manoeuvre, it is clear the offer of redundancies and a few cutbacks in spending are not the answers the economy needs at this time nor, indeed, do the growing army of un(and under)employ young people want.
The report itself admits this in its introduction, pointing that in December 2011 a previous IMF delegation had stressed that the widening fiscal deficit and debt were the key areas of concern and proposed a “credible fiscal consolidation plan” to resolve the issue. But, the DLP government asked for a postponement because of the general election, which, as we know, the DLP won. So, it is clear, that political chicanery won the day and the DLP deliberately misled the Barbadian electorate during the February 2013 campaign, especially its promise that there would not be any redundancies.
The reports also makes it clear that there is no available full information on financial performance of public enterprises, not only revealing the opacity of government, but, I suggest, not only hiding one of the key sources of heavy leaking of taxpayers’ money, but of gross managerial incompetence. The real problem with the Barbados economy, however, is structural, and deeply so: a public sector which is lacking in up-to-date technology, a working force that believes that taxpayers have a duty to keep them in jobs, a political culture that mistakes the ruling political party as the state, and a portfolio of small businesses and land that the state should not own but should dispose, if only to rebalance its finances. The only real reason for this ever-expanding portfolio of state-owned assets is the control it gives politicians, in terms of jobs for their supporters and a sense of personal social status.