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In Barbados, thousands of government workers have lost their jobs because of one word: austerity.
Austerity means deep and damaging cuts. It’s a wrong-headed policy pursued by right wing governments across the world, and, it hasn’t worked. There are many ways that a government may choose to address debts and deficit. One way is through tax hikes. Another is through spending cuts. Both of the aforementioned policies are encapsulated in the word “austerity”. A third, and by far the most preferable option for dealing with debts and deficits, is growth.
The Unity Labour Party and Comrade Ralph Gonsalves has chosen a growth strategy. Here’s the theory. The theory is that if you grow your economy through targeted investments, you create a larger taxable base and therefore, more tax revenues. Those revenues can then be reinvested in the economy to create further growth, and, they can also be used to reduce the deficit and the debt. When bodies evaluate countries for their debt, they look at the ratio of debt to GDP and also the growth prognostication for the economy.
The other option, which Mr. Eustace and the New Democratic Party have espoused in interviews and on page 13 of their manifesto is one of austerity. It is the path taken by the Barbados government – a government that has shown lacklustre growth or economic recession for the past decade. Thousands in Barbados have been sent home. Programmes have been cut. Yet, the Barbados economy won’t grow because there is no investment or climate of investment in the country. This is the approach that Eustace and the NDP prefers for St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
What does this approach practically mean for Vincentians? Well, if you have a government job. Or, if you have a government pension. Watch out. As we’ve seen around the world, this policy has meant job cuts. It’s meant benefit cuts. It’s meant pension cuts. It’s meant hardship. This is what is in store if the NDP wins on Wednesday.
The policy of growth to address deficits and debts is infinitely superior to the policy of austerity. Growth protects jobs. And, creates new jobs through targeted investments. And, it creates opportunities whereby the deficit can be reduced through the expansion of the tax base. It’s a win-win-win situation and one of the reasons why St. Vincent & the Grenadines weathered the global economic crisis better than most of our fellow Caribbean islands.
If you agree that a growth strategy — one that protects jobs, benefits and investments — is preferable to a policy of austerity — deep and dangerous cuts — then the choice is clear on 9 December. Ralph Gonsalves has a plan for this country — one that creates jobs and opportunity. Eustace ascribes to the tired old austerity politics that will mean that countless jobs will be lost, salaries cut and benefits cut.
On 9 December, vote for your job. X next to the STAR.
Ubaldus Lankford Parrish