WHEN Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis declared himself in yesterday’s Tribune to be “shocked” by a conclusion from the International Monetary Fund over the country’s deficit, it needs to be considered in light of how government actually works.
Mr Davis was asked by The Tribune about the news that the IMF had concluded that government spending would outpace revenue by about three times the amount forecast.
He said: “I’m shocked by that because they met with me and never raised those matters.”
Mr Davis added that he had been busy and was not aware of the IMF’s position – reported in The Tribune on Tuesday – until our reporter asked him about it on Tuesday night.
There are many things that are startling about this – but perhaps most notable is that routinely the IMF will send the report to the government before it is published.
Now, governments get many reports – but some get added to the stack and some have matters come screeching to a halt to deal with them. A report by the IMF on the state of the economy is not just something that will land on the Prime Minister’s desk for him to deal with at his leisure – it will be pored over across government, by the Ministry of Finance, by the Office of the Prime Minister.
Such a report contains endorsements and criticisms alike for policies – and it is never something to be ignored. It will also never be neglected by good reporters, so the government cannot hope that it will be passed by without notice.
Mr Davis might well be busy – but what about the rest of his advisers? Surely someone might have noticed the hole poked in the government’s financial numbers and raised it to the attention of the rest of the administration.
If Mr Davis is not being disingenuous – and we have no reason to believe so – then what does that say for the team around him who did not point out the IMF’s conclusion if he was too busy to read it himself?
After all, the hole we are talking about is sizeable – a deficit of $380m rather than the $131m forecast. A couple hundred million here, a couple hundred million there and soon we’re talking real money.
Reports on matters such as this should be received with urgency and examined with diligence – so nothing should come as a surprise about it. Certainly, one would hope that the Prime Minister – who also carries the title of Minister of Finance – would not be blindsided by a reporter with apparently more knowledge on the issue.
One would think if that was the case then the Prime Minister would be raising questions with his advisers about what else he has not been briefed about – and what else might have been missed.
There is good news elsewhere in the economy – the recovery after COVID goes on, with the surge in tourist numbers showing no sign of abating.
But it is worrisome to think that the government’s hand is not as tightly on the tiller as it should be. If the IMF’s reports can somehow slip past scrutiny, what else is being lost in the mix?