For eight years the country has been gripped in an economic recession – negligible growth notwithstanding in a quarter here and there – although it feels like a lifetime, an unaccustomed position for thousands of Barbadian if we count from the last major economic crisis of the early 90s. Clearly Barbadians- judging by how we have responded (not responded) to the economic challenge- must legitimately question our leadership and management abilities as a nation. We have reached the point instead of leading the region, an accustomed position since Independence, we have retreated to comparing our current state with the base of the base in the region. The boast that Barbados is a model Black country boxing above it weight class has become an idle one.
With less than a year to go until the next general election bell is rung AND weeks after the minister of finance Chris Sinckler delivered a ‘budget’ he promised will create a surplus on current account by reducing the deficit by 567 million dollars in the current financial year –the country’s major trade unions have decided that now is the time to pressure the government to modify the rate it has applied with the implementation of the contentious National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) from 10% to 5%. BU SUSPECTS the NSRL issue is a ruse by the BWU, NUPW, BSTU and BUT to give impetus to a bigger objective, that is, to force a change in government. Such naked affiliation by the major trade unions to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Opposition does a disservice to the movement. This will be a blog for another day.
If a student does not study well in the school year, cramming one week before promotionals will not make a difference. Using the same analogy -how will it be possible to reduce the deficit by 567 million dollars in less than a year before the next general elections IF the government has been unable to implement policies to achieve same in the last eight years? What is magical about this year?
To the apolitical Barbadian it is evident the economic model that has served Barbados for the last 40 years has run its course. The tourism goose is laying eggs, however, not in the same quantity or quality. An ageing population, unsustainable cost of social services, a burgeoning middlecalss manufactured on rising household debt, means that it is all beginning to collapse because we have not been able to match production with spend. As important is that as a people we have to adopt the right behaviours to collectively guide the country in the direction that will reasonably sustain ALL. What should these behaviours be?
It is laughable that trade unions are calling for a wage hike for employees in the public service and the wage bill by the same sector by any measure has been identified as the reason for the worrying state of government finances and has resulted in the printing of money. The end result is that domestic debt to GDP is ranked at one of the highest in the world. BU cannot ignore the fact that there continues to be haemorrhaging in government’s finances outlined in every Auditor General’s report since 2007 to the present. BU’s comment should not be taken as an attack on public sector workers. If we are honest we should be able to agree that the public service has become a place that the political class has padded to satisfy narrow interest.
What is playing out in Barbados gives currency to the Orwellian view that all the tenets we should adopt to protect our fragile democracy we seem happy to jettison in favour of alternative facts, incompetence and corruption from the entrenched political class and the partisan political minions. The foregoing made all the more ironic if we continue to boast of being a highly educated nation. The national budget allocation to education supports it.
The trade unions will again impose a go slow on a nation and what will be achieved? There will be enough workers who feel intimidated to ensure the public service remains somewhat productive and the country will limp along. This is where we are a country limping along.