Indeed, it is not being openly said, although being quietly refashioned in other words, that the DLP-led government’s approach to privatisation and divestment is very much a policy option for reducing the burgeoning costs of public expenditure should the party retain its majority in the Barbados House of Assembly. Privatisation and divestment are terms which form part of the DLP’s main post-2012 general elections economic formulae. That the DLP is investing in following particular policy prescriptions from elsewhere is only problematic when they do not gel with the things required in the national interests of Barbados. However, it is the obtuse temerity that the DLP engages for using those two words – privatisation and divestment – that is getting lost amidst the executive’s choice to confuse and keep Barbadians in the dark.
See related link:
- The Huff and Puff Is Affecting Me and Other Bajans! Let Us Deal With Some Facts – Part 1
- The Huff and Puff Is Affecting Me and Other Bajans! Let Us Deal With Some Facts–Part II
The evidence is clear that less centralisation and a reduction in bureaucracy coupled with the need for efficiencies are necessary given the dominance of the market. It becomes a matter of how does one proceed either to regulate or facilitate business; and how will the derived benefits be distributed within the economy? It is to these considerations that the purposes of the economic policies being contemplated by the DLP need to be clearly said and discussed with Barbadians by those in charge of the country’s economic and development affairs. Forthrightness has not quite been the case emerging from the twists and backdoor entries of Sinckler and the DLP.
Owen Arthur is candid with Barbadians when he asserts that “it is clear that major adjustments have to be made to the scope and nature of Government’s direct involvement in the economy and society.” More telling is Arthur’s crucial statement that:
A regime of fiscal incentives for social transformation … and specific incentives to enable the private sector to invest in new education and health care facilities will ensure that the private sector is encouraged to fill any void in our social capital development that is caused by reduced Government spending. In addition, the State has to go as far as possible with a privatisation programme and use the proceeds to pare down debt and to support the capital programme.
The Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and several other DLP advocates, while refraining from addressing these issues of privatisation with a head-on view of informed discussion with the Barbadian public, have been blame-prone and accusatory against anyone presenting alternative views on the directions for Barbados. The DLP propaganda machinery has insincerely and unapologetically said that Arthur and the BLP will send home over a 1,000 persons from the public sector because of its privatisation/divestment plans, despite failing to provide evidence and in the face of refutation.
One can only surmise that there is a gross misunderstanding by the DLP of what privatisation/divestment entails, or there could have been some deliberateness designed to spook, if not falsify claims, to a public sector that has barely been given space to breathe. The DLP ought to be aware that Barbados is a small society and persons in the public sector have witnessed many of their families and friends in the private sector being sent home or having their days of work cut from 40 hours weekly.
Eking out a living on 10 or 12 meagre hours is unacceptable in Barbados. Any administration in Barbados that engineers policies and actions that promote maintaining a high public expenditure in terms of wages geared for the public sector but equally renders the underbelly of the private sector dispensable, does not understand development and economic growth in the 21st century. The DLP regime is eroding the social fabric that held Barbados as a place of political and civil stability. Prime Minister Stuart and Chris Sinckler, along with the entire non-dissenting Cabinet – resignation is always an option – are exposing the vulnerabilities that social scientists say are characteristic of populations in small open societies being governed by the wrong set of people at the most damaging and detrimental of times. The DLP says it cares about Barbadians and wants to improve the economy and society; it must do that or give way to the group that is serious about facing and addressing such a challenge.
On reflection, one must remember that it was David Thompson in his first budget speech as Prime Minister in 2008 that said his government intended to sell its remaining assets in the Barbados National Bank and the Insurance Corporation of Barbados. In fact, Thompson at the time said that “the proceeds of these sales will be used to fund part of the upgrading and expansion of the QEH.”Now tell me, why is it that so many silent DLP voices are pushing the view that the BLP’s position for engaging with private enterprise in order to maintain an acceptable standard of living in Barbados, and to move the country forward in a direction of economic growth, is something outlandish? It is clear from the mouths of the past DLP’s Finance Ministers, that they too spoke of and endorsed privatisation and divestment of currently held but underperforming state assets.
To say that divestment is not an option at this time and that it goes against the nationalisation for development policy tool implemented after independence is debateable. However, one must guard against acquiring a similar mind-set to that of Sinckler since he himself has said that Barbados would have to re-adjust their minds and attitudes to economic development with divestment as an option, but is reluctant to stand up in public for what he says his DLP team will actually do.
The BLP has successfully pursued a divestment path in Barbados and the rewards meant Barbados enjoyed a higher standard of living and quality of life than they are currently experiencing under the procrastinating DLP administration. For example, and during
some economic turbulence, Barbados had to pursue initiatives and policies that coincided with the changing rules of trade after the coming into being of the WTO, adjust to the calamities resulting from the 1997/98 Asian Tiger fiasco that filtered into the Americas, and later having to address the dire situation for tourism in Barbados after the 9/11 trauma that brought profound changes in the way that international transport and travel would impact on the tourist industry. The Arthur-led BLP regime responded with purposeful policies. The BLP ensured that the sale and divestment of state assets were used largely to reinvest in the productive sectors of the economy which had a greater propensity for earning much valued foreign exchange.
In addition, and to a lesser extent, proceeds from government’s divestments were used to help maintain that quality of life associated Barbadians became accustomed to since the debacle of the 1991-94 period under the Sandiford-led DLP administration. The practicality of the Arthur inspired policies enhanced the strength of Barbados’ social services while at the same time providing the threshold from which over 30, 000 jobs were created in the Barbadian economy to the extent that by the time of exit in January 2008, the unemployment rate in Barbados was just over 6 %, easily the best this side of the Central and South Americas.
To sum up, Owen Arthur contends that Barbados cannot afford to be riveted to policy directives and out-of-touch economic manipulations that are “carried out through punitive taxation and other draconian pricing policies by state monopolies [which] can only bear adversely on the private economy and are likely to prove counter-productive. Such policies are likely also to be unsustainable.” Barbados must now stand up and call on the government of the day to bring the economic directions for Barbados in the open so that they do not experience any similar or worse conditions than those of the early 1990s.
I concur and hope that many more Bajans will see the rationale in Arthur’s urging that “an appropriate and coherent response to the fiscal crisis which confronts the country can help to establish an environment that supports private sector led growth. It is clear that major adjustments have to be made to the scope and nature of Government’s direct involvement in the economy and society.” We as Barbadians must stand up and be counted; enough of the huff and puff coming from the DLP under the slothful, indecisive, woeful, and uninspiring combination of Messieurs Stuart and Sinckler.