BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday March 1, 2017 – More than two decades ago, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) campaigned under the slogan “We Goin’ with Owen” which led them to a 1994 election victory. Now, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government has picked up the refrain and is putting it into practice.
Armed with the enviable record of spearheading robust growth in Barbados during his unbroken 14-year rule as Prime Minister, respected economist and veteran politician Owen Arthur is headed back to the wheel of the Barbados economy to steer the island away from treacherous waters.
Arthur has confirmed that he has been approached by Finance Minister Chris Sinckler to serve as Chief Economic Advisor, 24 hours after the minister told the country that a new National Economic Council would be installed to devise urgently needed strategies to stem the slide of the economy.
The former Prime Minister told the Barbados Today online newspaper: “Yes, I can confirm that I have been approached by Mr Sinckler [and] yes I can confirm that I told him that I would be willing to serve.”
As the country awaits a formal announcement from Minister Sinckler on Arthur’s role, Arthur immediately put to rest expected questions and criticisms about his new role under a DLP administration.
“I could not possibly be giving advice to other people and say ‘no’ to a good and honest overture to me to give advice to the Government of Barbados,” he said.
Arthur, who resigned from the BLP in 2014 and sits in Parliament as an Independent MP, signalled he was ready to get down to business, warning that time was running out to fix the crisis at hand.
Barbados has been grappling to contain its spiraling fiscal deficit which stands at eight per cent of GDP and falling foreign reserves which hit an all-time low of 10.3 weeks of import cover, which is below the benchmark 12 weeks.
Arthur issued his first piece of advice, urging authorities to urgently finalize the Council so it can propose corrective measures in the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure set to be presented on March 13.
“That is why perhaps it was so important for Chris to get consultation before he fixed the Estimates, rather than seek to get consultation after he has fixed the Estimates. But whatever else happens now, there is no basis for serendipity or ‘happy days are here again in Barbados’.”
The former Prime Minister stressed that there was no getting away from the fact that difficult days were ahead, even as he queried whether Government would push ahead on the BDS$600 million (US$300 million) adjustment to correct the monthly BDS$50 million (US$25 million) shortfall in salaries as proposed by former Central Bank Governor Dr Delisle Worrell.
“No matter what is done, I think the country has to be prepared for the fact that very difficult adjustment has to be made and it will affect the way of life of many people in Barbados – the standard of living of many people in Barbados,” Arthur cautioned.