With work on the new Wyndham hotel due to begin in two weeks time and another luxury hotel project under active discussion, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is very upbeat about the prospects this year for job creation.
In fact, he expects the national unemployment rate to go down.
And without giving anything away, Sinckler has also signalled that tax relief will be in store for Barbadians in this year’s National Budget.
Speaking to reporters in the wake of yesterday’s Central Bank report, the Minister said there were “positive trends that unemployment may be easing a bit”, while stating that Government intended to bring down the average unemployment rate, which stood at 11.8 per cent last year, to below 10 per cent this year.
“That is a significant goal, but it is an objective that we have to work towards,” the Minister of Finance said.
In response to the recent outcry about high taxation, Sinckler said: “We anticipate this year in the budgetary proposals that we will have some relief for Barbadians in terms of some of the taxes that we would have put in place.
“We hope that all of that would lead to a pick up in activity that would lead to an expansion of growth,”
The much-anticipated construction of the Wyndham hotel, on the site of the old Sam Lord’s Castle in St Philip, is expected to begin in early February. Sinckler also disclosed that next Wednesday, major players in the proposed Hyatt hotel project would be meeting at the Central Bank to discuss how to efficiently and effectively start work at the Bay Street, St Michael location.
In addition to these projects, Sinckler told reporters others were planned to assist with growth in the economy, which, based on the latest Central Bank report released yesterday, expanded by a meagre 0.5 per cent last year as predicted.
Admittedly, the Minister of Finance said he would have wanted to see a greater level of growth.
However, he is satisfied that the economy is going in the right direction. Using 2013 as his benchmark year, he said Barbadians could see that progress has been made in repairing the ailing economy.
“I think if you ask the average person who are working in different parts of the economy, you would have heard the reviews that the Barbados economy is starting to turnaround,” said Sinckler.
“An economy is like a ship; once it goes off track and you are trying to bring it on track, the turn is not a quick turn, it has a pretty wide craft so you have to give it a chance to come around.
“But generally I think we can feel in the atmosphere that the economy is in fact picking up and that we should be ready for a fairly significant take off this year,” he added.
Despite declines in other vital sectors, Sinckler said the island’s tourism sector was “really outperforming itself”, adding there was potential for further growth in the industry.
The Minister also noted that Central Bank reserves continued to be relatively stable though there was a slight decline last year as the country had to make significant debt service payments.
“Last year we took a decision not to go to market because we felt relatively confident that the foreign exchange market and the reserves could support the payments.
“Taking all of those factors into consideration we are reasonably comfortable and we have begun to see a flow coming now from the banking system into the Central Bank over the last few weeks as the winter season fix up,” he said.