The National, Monday January 11th, 2016
DESPITE 2016 being a challenging fiscal year, the import and export replacement industries will be made competitive by the lower fuel prices and the adjustment of the exchange rate, economist Paul Barker says.
He told The National that given this economic situation, 2016 could be a year when opportunities to achieve the objectives of a responsible sustainable development would become more realistic.
Barker said it would however depend upon the Government putting public funds, especially borrowed funds, to good by “investing in core infrastructure maintenance, restoration and affordable upgrade, and into critical government functions of improving law and order and human capital development” in the country.
He said it depended on the Government not squandering the opportunities and the country’s future by ignoring quality health, education and skills development, as it did in the 1990s.
“Again as a the lesson from the past, avoid borrowing excessively against uncertain future revenue, and avoid borrowing for, or investing in, relatively speculative or commercial activities which are not core government functions, and create added conflicts of interest with the Government’s role as regulator,” Barker told The National. He said diversifying the tax base, which includes committing funds for the Internal Revenue Commission and Customs to apply some of the recommendations of the recent tax review and embrace current “unregulated” businesses as taxpayers, was critical for the medium-longer term.
He said strengthening expenditure control and auditing functions, together with more transparent public tendering processes, were critical and vital to cutting back the current excessive waste including from ludicrously over-priced public contracts and procurement.
Barker said expenditure must be strengthened to provide better goods and supplies “which had to endure long periods without essential pharmaceuticals and inoculations during 2015”.