Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hold strain? Come again...

I read in today's Nation (page 6) that the Governor General is to get a new car, costing B$190,000, a spanking new Audi A4 sedan, reported to be the first of its kind on the island. I wont hide the fact that I find that report distressing as an indication of the wrong message to send to a nation at this time. As an indication of essential spending in a recession this passes no test that I could devise. If someone wants to tell me about prestige and image, I would say that when you are supposedly down to your shoes bottom those things should not be your concern.

I read in the same paper (page 3) that the Barbados Tourism Authority has had to pull out of promoting Crop Over during Trinidad's Carnival 'because of financial cuts': last year, they and the National Cultural Foundation spent B$80,000 on the same promotion, which was instrumental in bringing about 5,000 people from Trinidad for Crop Over.

Just three nights ago, the PM was discussing economic issues and talking about 'moratorium' as his angle, not wage freeze (see Nation report). I'm not going to get into semantics and what will make a moratorium (a delay or suspension) different from a freeze. All will be made clear soon when the PM meets the social partners. During the press conference, the PM is reported to have 'again pleaded with Barbadians to hold strain as Government attempted to battle the current worldwide recession by finding a mid-term solution'. He defended free bus fares for schoolchildren, and will continue the roll-out of the "controversial" Constituency Councils. He said that Barbados’ main challenge now was to repair the fiscal deficit, not deplete foreign reserves. The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to thank the private sector for holding back from lay-offs across the board, saying it had “pulled its weight.”

Today I also see a report citing the PM saying that 'Government will seek to protect taxpayers’ interests at all costs' (see Advocate report). The report stated 'Thompson stressed the need for such action, noting that it was the Government’s responsibility to maximise taxpayers’ returns, while also ensuring that their money was also well spent.'

I read about the plight of the QEH and junior doctors' complaints about the poor conditions and lack of facilities for them.

I recall just a week ago how the country did not have the resources to offer even one bed space to Haitians affected by the earthquake.

I am wondering how all of that sits together. If someone were asked to describe the government's attitude to holding strain in its affairs what conclusions would they draw? If asked what were the nation's priorities, what would they say? If asked if government were truly standing shoulder to shoulder with the private sector in carrying the burden of the recession would they agree?


Sargeant said...

I haven’t seen the report (The Nation is very selective in the stories it publishes in its online edition) so my comment is based on your blog. I had hopes for this Gov’t but I have been somewhat disappointed at its performance. The PM talks a great game however some of the Ministers seem to be clueless but this is not the first Gov’t whose private actions belie its public words. In the USA Obama declined the opportunity to get a new helicopter even though plans to obtain one had been in place long before he became President. As to the choice of vehicle, if all the senior public servants are driving around in BMWs what’s a GG to do?

Annoyed said...

My comment is based on your article as well, I also had high hopes for this Government but I'm now becoming increasingly annoyed, I've gone way past the 'disappointed' stage. I'm disgusted that the GG is getting a car of such expense, I'm disgusted that the Government seems to be throwing money we don't have (where is all this money coming from?) left right & centre when they can't/won't pay their bills! CO Williams is reportedly still waiting payment for the ABC Highway which is one of the reasons why men are being laid off for 2 week periods in rotation, & some permanently. (I hear his workforce are not impressed with Sir Charles buying a new Range Rover in this economic climate either!) I hear the Government hasn't paid the Four Seasons people for Jan'? (as I say I hear, not sure!) The BTA spend thousands & thousands yearly on welcome gifts & entertaining tourists, while that's very well, I'm sure a lot of it is unnecessary. Lets see people receive their tax returns due last year! The GG would be very well thought of by refusing such an expensive car & managing with something a little less opulent. The country would be far more impressed with seeing all political figures tightening their (increasingly large) belts with the rest of us. When breadfruits come into season, they can eat them 4 times a week like us country folk do & we can all save money!!