There may be light at the end of the tunnel for Barbados economically, but president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddie Abed is warning that dark clouds still linger, leaving the island highly vulnerable.
Addressing Tuesday’s BCCI luncheon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Abed suggested that if authorities were not careful to address a range of current issues, the island’s economic growth, as well as the profitability and survival of local businesses, could be undermined.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the darker clouds have not dissipated because our economy is expected to grow by two per cent this year. In fact, we are very wary of the growing industrial unrest and seemingly unrealistic wage demands that have been reported in the daily press,” said Abed.
“This, along with the additional cost of enacting the 2016 Holiday with Pay Act, if it is passed in its present form, will impact on the profitability, if not the survival of our businesses.”
Abed also pointed to the most recent downgrade by Moody’s of the economy “to even more junk status”, saying, “sadly, there are only seven countries in the world with a rating worse than ours.
“For all the good intentions austerity and promises meted out to us, our deficit remains stubbornly high and our debt is worrisome as it’s going in the wrong direction. This is simply not sustainable,” he warned.
The prominent City businessman said it was time for a national dialogue on the size of Government, the services that were best provided by the state and those by the private sector since “the statuesque is no longer good enough”.
“Our country remains highly vulnerable,” he said.
“Surely with 50 years comes a certain amount of responsibility and comprehension that our national goals cannot be achieved without greater productivity for increased pay, better governance by greater transparency and prioritizing Government programmes in an era where the cost to providing world class services is impossible with less revenue,” he said.
He said the BCCI remained the most respected business voice in the country and with that comes a responsibility to assist in solving problems and not merely spotting them.
The business leader cautioned chamber members that there would be issues of importance that they “must lead on, secondary issues which are not in our wheel house and as such we should follow those better capable, and more sobering there will be issues that we should never ever be draw into and thereby choose not to participate”.
“It is in this vein that I wish to
restate our main areas of advocacy – improve our position of shame on the international competitiveness ranking, growing the economy, reduction of the national debt, greater productivity in both the private and public sectors, and earning and saving foreign exchange,” said Abed.