Soon after their first election win (in 2017), the new BLP - with access to all financial records - truly grasped the parlous state of the nation's finances. Prime Minister Mia Mottley indeed delivered a "mini-budget" speech outlining the belt tightening ahead. She also telegraphed a warning message over the opposition party's bow in her first post-election presser, averring:
"It is a woeful state of affairs, and
anybody who presided over this really needs to answer to the country for what
in my view is a dereliction of duty that is unparalleled since independence.
This country is in need of serious, urgent action with respect to its economy and its government. Our foreign reserves are at a tenuous stage … We have a state of affairs where our deficit is unacceptably high. Indeed our debt represents the third highest in the world after Japan and Greece”.
Mottley in her first ever post -election media briefing went on to note that the island's statutory corporations owed tens of millions as of September, 2017 when the books were updated. Specifically, the Barbados Water authority was $70m in debt, and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (the state-owned service) was $125 m debt. Mottley also referenced $621.4 million in wire transfer outflows, which clearly led to the island's coming within 6 weeks of exhausting its funds (e.g. to pay wages, pensions) by the end of June.
Within a week of PM Mottley's budget speech we realized how serious the situation in Bim had become when Janice called our bank (Scotia) in Barbados and asked why her pension money had not been sent to the U.S. We were informed that new foreign exchange rules prohibited any further wire transfers of National Insurance pensions (equivalent to Social Security in the U.S.) and the beneficiary would have to show up in Barbados each month to claim that month's pension. Of course this was totally unrealistic and impossible for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the airplane fare alone would cost more than the monthly pension. The only alternative was to leave the money in a checking account there, which also worked to pay Barbados taxes that Janice owed on her pensions each year.
More recently, Kevin Greenidge, Mia's finance minister, noted the country has now rectified the previous party's fiscal mismanagement to the point of bringing Barbados back to a 2008 economic growth level. (But Mr. Greenidge warned it was more a 20 year rollback of growth, much of that because of the pandemic as well.)
In October last year, Mia earned kudos when she delivered a magnificent UN speech, which those interested can watch here:
As she thunderously proclaimed:
“We are waiting, waiting for global moral strategic leadership. How many more crises need to hit before we see that the international system divides, not lifts?”
In his TIME 100 tribute to Mia, Okonmjo Iwelala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, :