Prime Minister David Thompson will deliver what must be the most important Budget in the history of our parliament. Arguably the oil crisis of the 70s, the economic depression of the early 90s or the post-911 economic hurdle cannot rival the prevailing economic meltdown which the world currently finds itself. In all the above instances Barbados was able to institute the economic remedies to buy Barbados the time which it needed to wait for the inevitable rally.
One senses that despite all the years of good management which Barbados has benefited under successive governments, the time has come to depart from old modalities. The traditional drivers of the economy like tourism, offshore sector have been placed under threat in a way we have not experienced before. Non-traditional tourist markets like Cuba, Abu Dhabi and the cruise-ship industry have all conspired to determine that our leaders and planners must become more creative to ensure that our economic prosperity is sustained.
A key threat which we will have to confront sooner or later, is the need to shift dependency from fossil-based energy to an alternative energy source. If it is one criticism which our leaders of the past 15 years should have to answer is our lack of vision to build-up our alternative energy base. In 2009 we continue to be 100% dependent on the Barbados Light & Power Co Limited which to the best our knowledge is 100% powered by fossil inputs. Successive governments have muttered what is politically correct to suggest that they are aware of our predicament but have lacked the courage to commit the required resources to project case the task.
The economy of Barbados is obviously under severe stress. The unemployment statistics have been rumoured to be in double digits, the debt to GDP ratio is climbing, the import bill is rising as the foreign reserves are falling. Standard and Poors has downgraded its outlook on Barbados from stable to negative while Moody’s is watching. St. Vincent is the first country in the Americas to drawdown on the special IMF fund created to support developing nations.
Professor Frank Alleyne has been heard in the media recently suggesting that the Barbados government may want to consider accepting the IMF offer. The logic of his suggestion is that we must do whatever it takes to bolster our foreign reserves in the current crisis, akin to providing for a bad winter. Despite the ranting of the political diehards the economies in the developed countries are projected to plummet in 2009 by 4.3%.
A BU commenter posted on a previous blog that Prime Minister Thompson appears to be trying to build a society unlike his predecessor who was focussed on the economy. There is a good argument that given the prevailing negative economic conditions there is merit is throwing the full resources at the disposal of government at finding an economic solution. All the economic indicators point to the fact that the time is now to ensure that we have crafted a sound economic policy to create a buffer to the current crisis.
There are times when political partisanship should give way to bi-partisanship in the interest of the national self. This is such a time.