President of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) Marguerite Estwick is warning that Barbados was running out of time to improve productivity in order to help the ailing economy.
Addressing a productivity workshop for small and micro enterprises on Friday at the Accra Beach Hotel on the topic Understanding Issues of Productivity and Exploring Ways of Improving, Estwick said given the “critical state of the economy” it was imperative that discussions surrounding productivity should be wide-ranging, involving employees and employers at all levels, as well as government and other stakeholders.
“We have very little time left. Let’s get to it,” Estwick urged.
The head of the private sector trade union said meetings with workers, their trade unions and managers had revealed people were “working longer and harder”.
However, she said discussions on productivity tended to focus narrowly on rewards and the measurement of individual productivity, while, when all was said and done “we have the lamentation of accountants and the lamentations of economists that we have created less value than would have been created in previous years and we have recorded low levels of productivity”.
President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados Cedric Murrell also warned that while efforts are being made at improving productivity, emphasis must also be placed on economic growth.
“Let us not fool ourselves. The question of measuring productivity is also related and allied to the question of production . . . . There can be no serious or calculable increases in productivity without that aspect of production.
“We focus, and rightly so, on the question of productivity growth, but I want this morning for us to begin this year also focusing on economic growth because the question of economic growth is pivotal in this country to whatever we are going to be able to gain,” Murrell said.
He expressed disappointment that a number of projects announced two years ago were yet to get off the ground, adding that if the island were to face “the real serious challenges” that confronted it economic growth should be at the centre of all thoughts, plans and actions.
“Last year and the year before we would have been informed that there were aspects of our economy that were going to be able to exhibit growth patterns by way of investments, and particularly our tourism industry. That investment is yet to materialize before our very eyes, and that gives us great cause for concern in the congress because the question of how we are going to reward our people both for production and productivity hinges on the whole question of investment and a growth strategy,” Murrell said.
However, Senior Specialist on Employers’ Activity in the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean Vanessa Phala said Barbados remained the leader in the English-speaking Caribbean when it came to productivity and competitiveness, despite it’s ranking of 72nd out of 138 economies in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index for 2016-2017, down from 44th out of 144 countries in 2012-2013.
“Compared to the English-speaking Caribbean countries Barbados is doing very well, followed of course by Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago. So from the office of the ILO keep getting better. By this I mean continuous improvement in the quality of services, more variety of services and products and continue measuring and learn from the measurements in order to improve the work that you do,” she said.
Among other objectives, Friday’s workshop was meant to identify measures to help improve productivity, especially in small and micro enterprises.