Commerce Minister Donville Inniss, has stressed that he will not engage in any “shouting match” but rather is seeking to “partner on sustainable solutions” to combat the real problems that confront our economy and society.
Speaking this morning at the Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity’s Annual General Meeting at Bagnall’s Point Gallery, Pelican Village, Mr. Inniss asserted that Government “has sought to contain the fallout of this economic beast by engaging in expenditure reduction and revenue raising measures”.
He continued: “There has been some success in these areas, albeit with serious political fallout, as manifested by recent marches and strong and loud voices of discontent on our otherwise quiet national landscape.”
However, the Minister maintained that now was not the time or place to dwell on the merits or demerits of such national engagement but told the audience that he had certainly heard the voices of a significant cross-section of the population.
“Of course they are the voices and emotions that I have seen and felt as an MP over the years. And, when I review the economic data and realise that interest expense is becoming an albatross around our neck; that our sovereign credit ratings need to be better; that transfers and subsidies to and of state-owned enterprises remain stubbornly high and that Government wages bill is quite high, especially when considering the returns on such investment, I say to you that we all have a national duty to stop the quarrelling and get busy with fixing the structural deficiencies in our system for the benefit especially of generations to come,” he remarked.
Furthermore, he added that he, like most of his colleagues in Government, remained satisfied that additional direct or indirect taxation was not the sustainable solution to the country’s macro-economic challenges.
“Such fiscal and related monetary policies can only be temporary measures designed to balance the budget in a relatively short space of time without causing significant social dislocation. For example, the Government wages bill can be significantly reduced next month by a significant reduction in staff complement, but we are all aware of the social and political consequences of such an action. I have no doubts that such will occur but perhaps more over time than in one action,” he suggested.
The Commerce Minister emphasised that as a nation, we needed to utilise more of our time and energy on sustainable solutions to our challenges that go beyond Government’s fiscal policies, albeit ever cognisant of the impact of such policies on our work outside of Government.