CDN Special Feature: SIR HILARY MAKES TIMELY CALL FOR NEW-STYLE IMF
By Ricardo Blackman in Barbados
Sir Hilary Beckles, noted Barbadian academic and Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, recently called for a new-style International Monetary Fund (IMF) “and a 21st Century post-IMF Caribbean economy.” I concur 100 percent with Sir Hilary. His call is most timely. Barbados became a member of the World Bank since September 12th, 1974, automatically qualifying for membership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It’s perhaps opportune to clinically examine the extent to which membership of this prestigious Washington-based financial institution, has worked for Barbados. The stark reality is that Barbados has been given a “bad break” by the World Bank.
Have institutions like the World Bank, and its subsidiary organisations such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the International Development Association (IDA), who have been “supervising” activities on the international playing field and spurring the process of globalization, been playing fair. Have countries like our own Barbados been disadvantaged as result of an imbalance of opportunity to participate on the international stage?
I am aware, for example, that while the World Bank and their wholly owned subsidiary, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is a separate body from the IMF, they closely collaborate to control the economies of the Caribbean. Despite its membership of the World Bank since September, 1974, the Bank’s Doing Business Report failed for many years to publish any information on Barbados. The Doing Business Report provides rankings, rating a country’s economy based on the regulations it has in place to accommodate and facilitate the establishment and operation of business
While other Caribbean islands were listed, the omission of Barbados from this report is, in my opinion, at the root of the economic problems and series of successive downgrades Barbados has experienced.
Although from 2013, Barbados is now appearing on the Doing Business Report, Barbados has also been omitted from the Bank’s Doing Business Law Library, deemed by the World Bank as being the largest free on-line collection of business law regulations.
Another example of the exclusion of Barbados can be seen in the IFC’s publication of the Global Credit Reporting Program, which provides charts and maps, illustrating countries which have existing, developing or no private consumer credit bureaus serving financial institutions and other lenders. Despite the 25-year existence of the Barbados-based Caribbean Credit Bureau Ltd, the IFC claims that the data comes from country assessment and advisory work of its Global Credit Bureau Program and the Doing Business Survey.
The unexplained exclusion of Barbados from important listings of the IFC, and by extension, the World Bank, would have sent an unfortunate and harmful message that the island state is not a good country to invest and do business in and should be avoided, and that other islands on the list are a safer place for investor capital.
Equally puzzling is the fact that the Barbados Bankers Association (BBA) now wants to embrace the self-serving ideas of the IFC where a foreign credit bureau will be in possession of our confidential financial information instead of supporting the development of local entities to manage our information assets. These are the assets on which the future of our children will be built.