The Owen Arthur administrations of 1994 to 2008 made a developmental error when it believed that once there were capital inflows from the sale of land and international business the other sectors of the economy could play a secondary role.
Parliamentary representative for St Lucy, Denis Kellman levelled this charge at the former Owen Arthur administration today while speaking on the Barbados Revenue Authority Bill, 2014.
Kellman said: “The problem we face today has arisen because the Government of the day refused to build out the productive sectors of the economy. We behaved like gamblers because we would have been told while in opposition that the international business sector was doing so well that we had to give up import substitution. I have always warned this House that if we continue to rely on international business to carry our economy one day we will pay for it. That day came. That judgement day came when there was a meltdown in the world financial system.”
The St Lucy MP charged that instead of building on structure prepared by former Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford, Arthur depended on funds being brought in instead of earning foreign exchange.
“When you see the situation in which we find ourselves there is no doubt that the former Prime Minister must be held responsible. He concentrated on the international business sector and did not pay any interest in the manufacturing sector and the productive sectors as we know them. The path that this Government is now travelling has to be the right path when it comes to growth. We are building out the productive sectors,” Kellman said.
Kellman charged that the Owen Arthur administration could have developed the cotton industry and move from primary production to the manufacturing of clothing.
“We did not have control over international business, but the things that we had control over we ignored. We ignored sugar, we ignored sugar, we even ignored growing our own food because an argument was made in this House that based on competitive advantages, it was cheaper for Barbados to import food. Arthur was heard to say that land must fetch its highest economic advantage. It is clear to me that Arthur has accepted that the path he travelled was not the right road,” he said.
The St Lucy MP referred to government’s plans to develop alternative sources of energy and a sugar cane industry instead of a sugar industry.
“We are not dealing with special sugars, but we are seeking to ensure that we maximize all of the by-products from the sugar cane industry,” Kellman added.
While acknowledging that there was nothing wrong in developing the international business sector, it must be recognized that it was a fickle industry.
“Whenever there is a crisis in the world that is an industry that will be impacted negatively. We must appreciate that when conditions are good the inflows of capital will be great. The world seems to have moved towards services and have forgotten the production line,” he argued.