It cannot be business as usual in the Barbados economy, says Opposition Leader Mia Mottley.
Delivering the feature address at the monthly business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) today, Mottley warned that the country continued to “bleed” and that Barbados may soon have to choose between servicing debt and paying salaries.
She also took a swipe at the Government, charging that the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and the Governor of the Central Bank Dr DeLisle Worrell had choked all the “oxygen” out of the economy, in spite of taking out a full page advertisement in the Press recently saying the country had enough foreign exchange.
She was also highly critical of the Central Bank’s monetary policy as well as the Freundel Stuart administration’s heavy reliance on the National Insurance Scheme [NIS] for financing.
“Rather than printing only $500 million to support Government’s deficit as they did last year, they [Government] have now printed one billion dollars up to the end of September,” said Mottley.
She further pointed out that “we have a Central Bank report that shows that for the first time ever the NIS, having held $1.4 billion in Government debt at the end of 2007, is now past the three billion dollar mark at the end of September and it is business as usual,” the BLP boss contended.
Mottley said the current economic situation when combined with a lack of confidence, meant there was no new investment or opportunities for jobs.
She, however, called on the private sector to take more risks.
“Those who want to go into large scale agricultural production need to take up the offer of the Guyanese and need to export capital as [Sir] Kyffin [Simpson] has done with the rice,” Mottley said.
Suggesting that investment should not be a one-way street, she advised local businesses to buy shares in companies in Trinidad and Tobago. She also identified Guyana and Jamaica as countries with opportunities, from which Barbadian enterprises could benefit.
“We are not showing we are hungry for expansion,” Mottley said.
The BLP boss recommended the establishment of a national wealth fund that could insulate businesses from challenges such as economic downturns.
In her wide ranging address, Mottley argued that the greatest economic “holocaust” since Independence in 1966 was the fact that public servants had not received an increase in salary for seven years, even though the cost of living had continued
She noted that much more focus needed to be on jobs for the youth.
She believes that the full implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) would also facilitate greater jobs opportunities for young people.
“Many of our young people are simply not being heard or seen or given the opportunities [to succeed],” the Opposition Leader said.
She said the authorities must reach out to the youth face to face and also use the social media.
“So unless we start to speak to our young people directly, face to face and through modalities of narrowcasting; unless we start creating opportunities for them to have access to capital; unless we give them opportunities for training . . . so what happens to bright people who have no opportunities? The devil finds work for idle hands.”