The country’s high deficit and falling foreign reserves are of “grave concern” to local businesses.
The Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) today said it was shocked at the levels of reserves, which Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr DeLisle Worrell revealed yesterday was at10.3 weeks of import or $681 million as at the end of December 2016, the lowest in 14 years.
“There are two critical areas in our country that need to be urgently addressed in our opinion. The first is a reduction of the fiscal deficit, which we have been told as recent as yesterday is now at 8.2 per cent of GDP . . . . The secondary major concern to the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and to Barbadians on a whole is the level of foreign reserves.
“We were quite shocked yesterday to see the Central Bank’s report that our foreign reserves were at an extremely low level – $681 million or approximately 10.3 weeks cover . . . our foreign reserves are of grave concern to us all as Barbadians and as businesses in Barbados. We cannot allow this slide to continue,” Acting BCCI President Edward Clarke said today at the private sector grouping’s first luncheon for the year at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
During yesterday’s presentation of his 2016 economic report, Worrell had said Government had expected $250 million from various projects this year, which would help prop up the reserves.
While acknowledging this may be true, Clarke expressed skepticism, saying some of those projects had been in the pipeline for a long time.
The BCCI leader said it was necessary “for us to cut and contrive and spend whatever little we have wisely”, and he appealed to the Freundel Stuart administration to work more closely with the private sector and all Barbadians to drive down the deficit and shore up the reserves.
“[There is] no time to delay in getting the country on the right path again,” Clarke said.