Government is sticking to the measures outlined in this year’s Financial Statement And Budgetary Proposals which are expected to put this country’s economy back on a growth path.
Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Christopher Sinckler believes these measures are the correct ones at this time and has urged all Barbadians to support Government, as it invests in the restructuring, resuscitation and the sustainable development and growth of this society.
“I am very excited about Barbados’ future . . . . We have what it takes, we have a fundamentally good economy, [and] we have a fundamentally good society . . . . Yes, there are challenges for Government and the private sector, but I think if we work together we can achieve a tremendous rebound in our economy, and I think this is where we have to be, not nit-picking about this thing and that, trying to create confusion and depress the population,” Sinckler implored his audience.
“We need to lift the spirits, say to people, look, let us pull together, let us make the sacrifices, let us make the investment, let us ensure that our economy can go forward, can create new jobs, opportunities and investment, and produce a better and stronger society, as we navigate these very difficult global waters.”
Sinckler promised that Government would continue to identify those opportunities and go after them aggressively, while ensuring that Barbados becomes the best, easiest and most congenial place for investors to do business.
The minister noted that a number of projects had been identified to bring foreign exchange into the country and grow the economy over the medium to long term. He listed some of them as remodelling the former Almond hotel, so it is managed by an international brand, the Barbados Water Authority’s mains laying project, as well as the cruise pier and Pierhead projects.
“We have a couple other very interesting private sector investments [to come on stream] which, unfortunately, I am not empowered to speak about. But, I believe in the next few months, as they are revealed to the public by those private investors, some of whom are from outside of the country, [they] will create that atmosphere that we need,” he stated.
He added that Government had looked at the traditional sectors, namely tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and international business to see what were the issues and if changes needed to be made. According to him, Government has invested heavily in the tourism industry to make it better and he alluded to the tourism ten-point plan and the incentives in this year’s Budget.
He said officials were also looking at additional properties here to engage in public/ private partnerships to ensure the quality of the tourism sector could be restored.
Sinckler acknowledged that Barbados was not the most price-competitive country because it had a structure that made it a little more expensive than the average destination.
“But, what we wanted to focus on are issues of quality, of product and quality of service because that [area] is where we are getting the hardest hit. Our hotels, accommodation and other things need to be a lot more congenial and attractive; our quality of service, that is, how we treat the tourists needs to be a lot better . . . . The issues of service in restaurants, in the same hotel properties, generally how Barbadians interact with the tourists, how quickly they can get in and out of the country, those are issues that we have absolutely to focus on, because they will beat price.
“A person will pay an additional amount to come to a place if they feel the quality is great and the service is excellent. Those are the areas that we have to focus on and that we are addressing, not only in the Budget, but the Medium-Term Growth And Development Strategy,” he stated.
In the area of agriculture, he contended that the sugar industry had been struggling for years and it had not received the type of restructuring it should. He opined that successive administrations had watched it limp along to the stage where it was practically flat on its back.
“And, we say that this is enough; we need to do something about this. And, that is why the Ministry of Agriculture, under the leadership of Dr [David] Estwick, has come up with a comprehensive agricultural reform plan which is going to be led by a reform of the sugar industry . . . to being a sugar cane industry,” he pointed out.
The minister is of the view that the multimillion-dollar Barbados Cane Industry Project, which is being undertaken with the assistance of Japan, would give the country an entirely new platform to move agriculture in a direction that would add more value to the industry so foreign exchange could be saved and jobs created.
He indicated that Government was also looking at new sectors and identified alternative energy as one of the new and exciting areas. “We have done a complete suite of incentives for that sector [and] we also have on board the changes to the Electric Light and Power Act. Both have been laid in Parliament and will be debated when Parliament resumes in October as our first order of business, to help the process of creating this new sector . . . that can cut our importation of fuel oil and through that, can cut the amount of foreign exchange we spend buying it,” he said.
Sinckler added that the sector would also create a level of energy efficiency, new jobs and fresh areas for investment for the island.
“It is a win-win situation for everybody. So we are forging ahead with that,” he stated, adding that the cultural industries area was another new one which would be discussed in Parliament shortly.
So Barbados, like several of its Caribbean neighbours and other countries across the world, has been feeling the effects of the global recession, and Government has had to re-look and strengthen the systems it had in place to deal with the situation.
Now Government believes it has crafted the correct programme to grow this island’s economy and has started the job of implementation, by rolling out some of the initiatives; then it will move on to tackle the more difficult issues.
Yes, it may appear as if some of the measures introduced in this year’s Budget were tough, but they should be seen as being essential for this country’s survival.
Therefore, let all of us as Barbadians put our hands to the plough and remember that this is our beloved country and we must work through this situation together. (BGIS)