Government has been “forced” to cut money to some of its ministries in the face of not having funds to “throw around”. But despite this stark reality, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean told the country today, the economy is being set on a road to restructuring and growth after five years of stabilisation.
The leader of Government’s affairs in the Upper House made the statements today as she led off debate of the 2013-2014 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure there.
“I believe that when we look at the Estimates we recognise that we have before us a set of figures that reflect a number of things. It reflects the fact that Government in (the) face of its constraints would have been forced to restrict the allocations to some ministries,” the said.
“In other words, we are not in the luxury position of having money to throw around, so to speak, we have been constrained in terms of financial resources… There is a reason why it is not business as usual.
“We have a situation where of course Government’s revenues of necessity would have fallen because clearly if our key earners of revenue, and therefore our key taxpayers, have not been earning as they did because of reduced arrivals, or even if we have increased arrivals reduced spending … then Government’s revenues have fallen and therefore we see that reflected,” she added.
McClean, noted however, that the facts also showed that based on what the Freundel Stuart Administration was able to achieve in the last five years and based on projections “we have a situation where we expect to work towards a more efficient use of those resources and hopefully at the end of the day we would recognise that we are able to achieve a lot more with the resources that we have”.
The goal of the next five years therefore was to “build on our efforts to move beyond the point of stabilisation to look at the issue of growth of the economy, of creating some level of stimulus,” she noted.
“Having spent the last five years stabilising this economy we are now going down a road of building out opportunities for growing the economy and most importantly for restructuring this economy. We recognise that any efforts to restructure will not be easy, it is going to require significant commitment on the part of all Barbadians, whether it is at the domestic level, whether it is at the corporate private sector level or whether it’s in the public service,” she said.
“It will require us as a people to appreciate that we have to be competitive, we have to be committed to innovation, we have to be committed to high standards.” McClean also noted that the challenges Barbados faced had “spurred us on to work hard with the limited resources that we have”.
“We have identified several growth areas. These are things that will have to be nurtured and we are committed to those. There are opportunities out there for us to maintain our reputation as perhaps one of the best places on this earth to live and I don’t say that lightly,” she stated.
But the minister also made it clear that Government would not be entertaining unrealistic quick fixes in an effort to improve the economy and society.
“I believe that a lot of what we have to do will take time but in the interim as you work on the long term we also have clear strategies to address problems in the short term and overall I am very optimistic about the prospects for this beautiful country,” she stated.
“I am comfortable that this Administration understands the task before it. It has been our lot, and it continued certainly in the last five years to be our lot, that we have to take Barbados and run it in tough times, notwithstanding the obligatory criticisms from our detractors and those whose task it is to criticise.”
“I can tell that we have challenges but we have been fighting those challenges with determination and I anticipate that we will continue to do so, we do so working as a country, we do so working as partners.”
A key aspect of the way forward, she added, was a focus on restructuring the economy.
“We have been very dependent on tourism and it has done well for us, it continues to generate significant amounts of foreign exchange… We also look at our international business sector, that too has been very important…; it’s contribution to Government revenues … in addition to all other kinds of benefits,” she said.
“When we look at our economy what we find is that we are looking at an economy which has done well over many years, but which was doing well in spite of our failure in the last certainly 20 … years, to attempt to restructure the economy in a meaningful way.” (SC)