The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is dismissing Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s upbeat economic outlook as one that was not grounded in reality.
BLP candidate for St Michael South Central Marsha Caddle Thursday said Stuart was resting the country’s economic fortune on deals that were yet to be finalized, a strategy she described as ineffective.
“Low foreign reserves and access to foreign currency affect the capacity of businesses to conduct their regular business activity and in turn their capacity to contribute to growth. This is a critical concern, notwithstanding Government’s counting of chickens that are not yet hatched in the form of the BNTCL [Barbados National Terminal Company Ltd] sale, which is still under consideration by the Fair Trading Commission, and private capital projects that have been so mired in delays and public objection, one can hardly have any hope that they will be realized in time to make a difference,” Caddle said during a BLP news conference at the office of the Opposition Leader in Parliament Thursday afternoon.
The BLP economist was referring to the Prime Minister’s address to the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) at the Hilton Barbados Resort yesterday, during which he said Government had continued to meet all of its foreign debt liabilities on time.
Stuart had also told the private sector grouping that a shortfall in anticipated public inflows was the main reason for a decline in foreign reserves, but this would soon change with a $250 million injection from a number of pending projects.
He had echoed Central Bank of Barbados (CBB) Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell, who a day earlier had said Government was anticipating over $250 million, including $68 million on the Sam Lord’s project, $100 million from the sale of the BNTCL and $40 million from the sale of Government’s interest in the Four Seasons property.
Caddle Thursday said the anticipated windfall was insufficient to help the reserves rebound from a 14-year low of 10.3 weeks of import.
“The anticipated increase of $250 million to the stock of foreign reserves, given the country’s debt crisis, is insufficient to give any long-term relief or improved outlook. But above all else, the Prime Minister must know that hope is not a strategy,” the rookie politician said.
Caddle’s position was similar to that of President of the Barbados Economic Society Jeremy Stephen, who yesterday expressed skepticism that the Freundel Stuart administration would rebuild the foreign reserves despite the expected cash inflows.
“With this amount of money coming in it is hardly going to offset the big drop we saw over the last year in international reserves and that could be quite worrying,” Stephen had said.
Government has repeatedly blamed the global economic meltdown of 2008 for the state of the economy.
However, Caddle contended that other countries had worked their way out of recession, and accused the Prime Minister of blaming external factors instead of leading the recovery.
“The Prime Minister’s remarks at the BCCI luncheon yesterday seem to suggest that we have no control over our economic destiny, and are mere victims of a global economic cloud that seems magically to be raining only over Barbados. But any success in the international business sector is also a function of the Government’s own capacity to facilitate business, and to maintain investor confidence.
“A government that oversees almost 20 credit downgrades in a seven-year period will also see capital flight. A government that cannot successfully implement a single adjustment programme out of six attempts must take some responsibility for its own economic mismanagement, rather than suggest that we exist solely at the mercy of external circumstances,” Caddle stressed.