One of the most sought after regional economic experts Wednesday afternoon cast serious doubt on the country’s economic future, declaring that Government’s current strategies for growth were likely to fail.
Addressing a Small and Medium Enterprise Stakeholders Forum at the Accra Beach Resort in Christ Church on the topic Small Business Development in the Age of Creative Destruction, Senior Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus Dr Keith Nurse said while the country had done well in the past 50 years, he was worried about the next 50.
In fact, Nurse told the Freundel Stuart administration that it would have to do something “out of the ordinary” if it wanted to return the island to the “good old days” of between two per cent and four per cent growth, insisting that his prediction was supported by data for the developed and developing showing a flat line of only about one per cent growth during the past eight years.
“If North America is averaging one per cent growth . . . unless you do something real special and out of the ordinary, you are more likely to deliver the same thing or lower,” he said.
An expert member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy whose expertise has been in demand by local, regional and international agencies, Nurse said Barbados was ill-prepared to deal with the economic problems it was facing, and that the growth strategies being used were not up to scratch.
Nurse urged the administration to adopt the mantra of greater efficiency in the areas of food imports, energy and health financing, while suggesting that Barbados must carefully select markets that provide the best returns.
The former president of the Association of Caribbean Economists and founding members of the World Economics Association also emphasized that much more attention ought to be placed on business coaching, market intelligence and human resource training.
“Our culture of management and leadership doesn’t do that,” Nurse said.
He added that the prospects for growth in Barbados and the Caribbean were being compromised by populations which were too small to generate the economic expansion of the past.
“In the Caribbean, and particularly Barbados has lost its demographic wall. In fact it is estimated that by 2040 or 2050 the English-speaking Caribbean will have one million less people than we have now . . . .
This means that our domestic market and our regional market are going to shrink,” he said, adding that any growth projections that were based on the premise that traditional export markets would be revived and would generate export demand, were off target.
“The second thing that is fundamentally flawed is the premise that the Caribbean would somehow be expanding, and there would be increased demand domestically and regionally for the goods and services we do. And the answer to that is no. We have shrinking societies and we have shrinking economies,” Nurse cautioned.
Therefore, he said, unless Barbados shifts its strategies to focus on export of goods and services or import more people, growth would be retarded.
Nurse also warned about a “crab in the barrel” attitude, stating that while the barrel had disappeared the crabs did not even
“If the crabs don’t get it, we are in trouble,” he said.