Amid the “longest and deepest” economic decline ever experienced in Barbados, a leading University of the West Indies (UWI) economist says research has shown that the island has generally fared better under the leadership of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
Economics professor at the Cave Hill Campus Dr Winston Moore was addressing the inaugural professorial lecture at the Henry Fraser Lecture Theatre last evening under the theme In Plenty and In Time of Need: Barbados’ Economic Development Since Independence.
While arguing that the performance of the local economy since 1966 has been “exceptional” in many aspects despite the challenges, Moore said there was a misconception in Barbados that “one political party was pro-business and another political party is not pro-business”.
However, he said based on economic history, both the Opposition BLP and the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) were both pro-business.
Moore also gave his analysis of the country’s economic performance under the two political parties, reporting that the average growth rate over the past 50 years under the ruling DLP was 0.14 per cent, compared to an average rate of 2.4 per cent during the reign of the BLP.
“I have provided the average growth of economic activity under the DLP, and the average growth of economic activity under the Barbados Labour Party, and a very simplistic reading of this chart suggests that the Barbados Labour Party tends to be better for economic activity in terms of economic growth,” Moore said.
In seeking to provide reasons for his finding, the economist said one theory was because the local electorate tended to “vote against the incumbent party rather than vote for change in any particular way.
“So what tends to happen sometimes is that one party might take over as a result of a downturn in economic activity,” he explained.
Still, he acknowledged that the decline in economic activities experienced by Barbados since 2008 has been one of the deepest and one of the longest in the country’s history.
“The economy at the end of 2014 was eight per cent smaller than it was at the end of 2008. During this period it seems like we have all been seeking for a quick fix. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a quick fix. The key thing that we need to focus on to address this problem is we need to, and using our history as an island, we need to focus on addressing the fiscal problem,” said Moore.
Warning that the fiscal deficit facing Barbados was “the fundamental problem” and should be the short-term priority, Moore said once this shortfall existed there would be business uncertainty.
“After you get around the short-term priority then we need to invest in the productive capacity of the island,” he said, referring to investment in education, research and development, green energy, small business development and industrial activies, land use and water management.
Moore stated that while the know-how already existed in Barbados, what was needed was greater partnership between the public and private sectors in order to give birth to new industries and the creation of more jobs while solving some of the issues facing the island.
“We really don’t need another consultant,” he said, adding that a better enabling environment was needed for small businesses to survive.
“There are tremendous business opportunities and cost savings in relation to waste management. Overhauling the public transport system, maybe it should be public, maybe it should be private,” added Moore.
In listing his lessons and areas for attention, Moore said he also believed the tertiary institutions on the island, had the ability to play a greater role in the area of “edu-tourism” by exploring new markets to source students to study in Barbados.
During his near one-hour lecture, the economist also warned that “if something is not working, you need to quickly build on your competitive advantage” and diversify.
The lecture series will consist of ten lectures under the broad theme 1966+, Beyond the Broken Trident: Achievements, Challenges and Prospects, which are being done in commemoration of Barbados’ 50th anniversary of political independence.