The country’s economic future and “perverse” information about doing business here were among the issues discussed during eight hours of closed-door talks Monday of the full Social Partnership.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who chaired the tripartite talks, said there was agreement among the partners to ensure that the sensitive economic situation did not not get worse.
“We discussed the macro economic situation and the state of our foreign reserves. We had a very good presentation done by the Central Bank and one done by the private sector and both presentations claimed the respect and approval and admiration of the Social Partnership . . . and we committed ourselves to ensuring the macro economic situation does not deteriorate and that such green shoots that we have begun to see in the economic performance of Barbados are not allowed to die,” Stuart told reporters at the end of the discussions at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The group discussed the vexing issue of doing business here, placing particular attention on the recent World Bank Group report which ranked Barbados 119 out of 189 countries, down three places from 2015. In that report, Barbados ranked 100 in starting a business, down five places from last year; 158 in dealing with construction permits; 164 in enforcing contracts and 166 in protecting minority investors.
Stuart said the meeting felt some of the information was incorrect but it was a perception that could influence investors who wanted to do business here.
“And therefore, we had to treat perception as reality and those issues that were within our competence that we had to move swiftly to correct them.
“One area of concern that was expressed was that when information is published in the report and you refute that information, you write to challenge that information, whether through the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office or through the Land Registry or wherever else, we have not been getting any response to the challenges; so we do not know to whom these people are talking when they come to Barbados. But some perverse information is making its way into the public domain and into the international arena and we are committed to ensure that we get to the bottom of it and that Barbados’ position is not perversely misrepresented,” the Government leader stated.
The meeting also addressed productivity and employee engagement, and agreed that the reasons behind these problems had to be carefully explored and that employee engagement and productivity were inextricably linked.
“If you have workers going to work every day and feeling no attachment to their work place, hating their jobs and so on, it was unlikely that they would be as productive as workers who go to work, like what they doing, like the environment at the work place and are optimistic about their prospects for upward mobility and that kind of thing,” the Prime Minister stressed.
However, despite the lengthy discussions, some agenda items – including sustainable development, Barbados’ relationship with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy – were not dealt with and will be addressed at the next meeting in January, Stuart said.