Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler and Governor of the Central Bank DeLisle Worrell
In May this year Governor Delisle Worrell issued a directive to ban the Nation newspaper from participating in press conferences hosted by the Central Bank of Barbados. His action provoked wide condemnation from every corner within in civil society. The Governor and Central Bank obviously yielded to the pressure and public expectation reverted to the Governor having his routine press and Q&A sessions or so we thought!
It was a surprise therefore when the media was informed that the regular press conference to cover the six month economic performance review was to be cancelled. To date Barbados Underground has not discern the same level of outcry in response to the decision by the Central Bank compared to when the Nation newspaper was banned. Which is to be condemned more, the short-lived ban imposed on the Nation newspaper OR the cancellation of the press conference that denied the Fourth Estate from interrogating the banker of government at a time when we have more questions than answers.
The feeble excuse offered by the Central Bank and supported by leading media practitioner David Ellis that all press briefings are posted to a website is unacceptable. At a time when a greater level of public engagement is the desirable option, the Governor has chosen to retreat and is happy to limit his public appearances captured in the press to attendance at crop over events.
2nd Quarter Central Bank press conference cancelled
Central Bank’s second quarter review is scheduled for 15 July 2014. A visit to the Central Bank website states, “UPCOMING EVENTS, July 15: Release of Analysis of Barbados’ Economic Performance for the first six months of 2014 Time: 2:00 p.m.” BU has been advised that the Central Bank has cancelled the news conference which has become a standard feature of the Governor Worrell’s quarterly review of Barbados’ economic performance.
Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining.
The respected Bloomberg posted the headline [13/12/2013] Barbados Debt Higher Than Cyprus Prompts Firing of 3,000. The preamble to the article reads “Barbados will fire 3,000 public sector workers by March and freeze wages as the eastern Caribbean island’s debt burden soars and the International Monetary Fund says “urgent adjustments” are needed.” BU recalls in 2010 the suggestion to government to consider freezing public sector wages was mooted. In fact Minister David Estwick was publicly rapped on the knuckles for making the suggestion. The late Prime Minister David Thompson addressed the matter of wage freeze in his first press conference in 2010 – see Prime Minister David Thompson’s First Press Conference in 2010.
Where we find ourselves, AGAIN will provoke the usual political cackle from participants in the diluted Westminster system of government we practice. In fact, leading political scientists and pundits will rationalize the political cackle as NORMAL, emanating from an adversarial system borrowed from a colonial past. Despite years of investing i education we have given little thought to changing the system of governance which continues to be a polarising force in a 2×3 country given how irrelevant it has become.
The national discussion will now mirror the tenor of the 90s when another DLP administration took the decision to slash public sector wages by 8% and jettison 8,000 public sector employees. Lessons learned you think? ‘Go to the ant thou sluggard…’.
The BU household always focuses on the part of the issue which Barbadians feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it explains why traditional media and prominent people in society read and contribute to BU but with a hushed involvement. This is the hypocrisy which supports a mendicant culture which is no longer relevant in a today’s world. No more preferential treatment from the More Developed Countries (MDCs) and no more lack of competition from the Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs).
The sending home of 3,000 public sector workers is not the solution to the problems which confront Barbados, it is a manifestation of one of many symptoms which ail the nation. If there is one issue where there is consensus, it is that our economy has some deep flaws which must be addressed. Even the head of government’s economic advisory council has publicly admitted this to be the case. It seems to BU this was a good place to have started the discussion regarding a strategic economic approach in 2008. Looking forward, where do we go from here full in recognition that there is no silver bullet?
Submitted by the Mahogany Coconut Think Tank and Watchdog Group
Sir Courtney Blackman, first Governor of the Central Bank
Dr. DeLisle Worrel
We are not a bit surprised that former Governor of the Central Bank, Sir Courtney Blackman is blaming both the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party for the current financial woes. We are also not surprised, that the current Governor, Dr. DeLisle Worrell, is saying that the existing financial sector stymies or does not support innovation and creative enterprises. In layman’s terms it really means, that those citizens with startup enterprises, cannot get them financed.
The governor of the Central Bank appears quite clearly to have lost all sense of balance as far as the local economy is concerned. Not only has he been in office for the last five years or so, he is yet to come up with a publicly available reasoned and detailed plan for rescuing the nation’s economy from the situation it is in. His recent obvious confusion about the constitutional role of the Central Bank adds further to the confusion. Even local journalists are confused.
Dr Worrell’s reported U-turn on a policy announcement – a veiled criticism of the government, then claiming the government was on track – was but the latest in a series of embarrassing episodes. But first, we must get the legislation right. The Central Bank Act is irrelevant to the new financial architecture post-2007 and the new global regulatory paradigm. I said before, and say again, that the Act needs serious reform, giving the Bank a legally defined role, on par with the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and all the other major Central Banks. Be that role inflation targeting, financial stability, or even more explicitly, managing unemployment rates, there must be a benchmark against which we could measure the Bank. Now we have a situation in which the governor is publicly expressing views about fiscal policy, and one local website even describing the governor/central bank as the government’s primary monetary and fiscal adviser. Not at all. The central bank should be independent of the government of the day and should be reporting direct to parliament.