The umbrella Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) says it is tired of waiting in vain for economic growth to return.
So with 2017 just around the corner, Chairman Charles Herbert has called for the reinvigoration of the island’s Social Partnership, which brings together the business community with Government and the trade unions, with a view to fixing the island’s ailing economy and achieving much needed economic growth.
In his New Year’s Day message, Herbert made no mention of recent rumours of the island going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an economic bailout. However, in a carefully worded statement, he did hark back to the 1980s and 1990s period when the island was faced with severe economic challenges which forced the then Erskine Sandiford-led Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government to enter into a structural adjustment programme with the Washington based financial institution.
Just recently, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley warned during a political meeting at Top Rock, Christ Church, that the recent temporary suspension of trade in Barbados dollars by Guyana’s central bank – which also suspended trade in the Trinidad and Tobago currency – could be a sign that this island could be headed back to the IMF.
“The Guyanese stopped taking our currency in 1991 just before Barbados and Sandiford, under the Dems [Democratic Labour Party], went to the IMF,” Mottley said, while reminding supporters of her Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) of the mass protests that eventually led to the fall of the Sandiford (now Sir Lloyd) Government in 1994.
But while staying clear of the recent IMF discussion, Herbert warned that 2017 was shaping up to be another challenging year for Barbados economically. And though confident that the island would eventually achieve the desired economic recovery, the private sector leader said there was really no way of predicting when it would come.
“For the past few years we have hoped that each New Year would bring a shift in our economy back to the growth and prosperity from which our country would benefit. It has been a long wait and although we are confident that eventually the recovery will come however the timing has been impossible to predict,” the BPSA Chairman said in his message in which he strongly urged members of the Social Partnership to come together in the best interest of the country.
Herbert also called for a return of the same spirit of partnership that existed during the trying 80s to 90s period, saying “it is now critical for the public sector together with the labour movement and the private sector to be collectively focused on fixing that which is within our power to fix.
“Each one of us must have the will to do our part to bring about improvements in the levels of service, productivity, efficiency,” he said, adding that “the elimination of wastage to contain expenditure and attention to the fiscal and national polices of our nation must be other matters for consideration at the level of the Social Partnership.”
In recent months, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has been leading a vocal choir of mostly economists and business people who have been pressuring the Freundel Stuart administration to take some very hard decisions on the economy.
However, to date Government has been playing it safe, with both the Prime Minister and his Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler desperately avoiding use of the dreaded terms “privatization” and “IMF”, even though Arthur maintains that Barbadians are essentially enduring the pains of an IMF structural adjustment programme without reaping the accompanying benefits of financial drawdowns at concessionary rates.
“Barbados has been carrying out a programme of fiscal consolidation and economic restructuring as prescribed by Article IV consultations with the Fund. It is essentially employing IMF type policies,” the former Prime Minister said during a recent lecture sponsored by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, along with the St James South Constituency Council.
Arthur, a trained economist, also said while the Article IV recommendations did not call for an exchange rate adjustment, “they do, however, call for timely and effective implementation of the policies which the Government of Barbados agrees with the Fund as being the best suited for the transformation of the economy”.
Therefore, he argued, in going this route, “Barbados is essentially implementing an IMF style adjustment programme without having access to the IMF funding”.
In his New Year’s Message, Herbert also warned of the need for change, saying though it was never easy “it must be done if our nation is to improve its economic performance and ratings in 2017.
“As we celebrate the start of a New Year and look forward to the unfolding of the coming months the Barbados Private Sector Association will continue to play its part for the development of Barbados,” the BPSA Chairman said.
“We understand that a vibrant private sector, whether in the form of the largest corporation or the individual entrepreneur, offers the opportunity to realize a return to growth and prosperity for individuals, for families and for the country,” he added.