Cabinet must lead the productivity drive, but the entire country must be involved, according to Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs Stephen Lashley.
Lashley today admitted Barbados was not as productive as it ought to be, making it difficult for the country to earn its way in the world.
He told Barbados TODAY with the economy struggling, Government was expected to lead the way, but the private sector and all of Barbados had a responsibility to ensure a more productive country.
“We have to work very hard as a country, from the private sector to the public sector, to Cabinet and to Parliament; you cannot really talk about productivity unless you really start with the holistic society. I believe that within the context of what is going on nationally, Barbados is still going through a difficult economic time and there is an on-going discussion mainly at the political level as to what is the correct path to follow in terms of an economic strategy.
“However, I happen to believe that one of the biggest challenges, one of the things we have to nail down and to deal with, is the question of productivity. Our country is not as productive as it should be,” Lashley said on the sidelines of a tree planting ceremony at Crystal Gardens, the Glebe, St George, organized by the Community Independence Celebrations committee and The Productivity Council.
“You cannot really tackle productivity unless you start with the community, the roots . . . . Productivity cannot only be a discussion at the political level. Yes, we are required to provide the leadership, but we have to revisit the communities and the individuals to remind them that we need to be more productive in every activity in which we are engaged.”
As a demonstration of his attempts at productivity in agriculture, Lashley today planted two fruit trees – one sour sop and one sugar apple – in an attempt to encourage Barbadians to grow what they eat.
This, he said, would help reduce the country’s spiralling food import bill.
He said policymakers were aware that food security was an important aspect of national development and every opportunity should taken to encourage the country to get back to that traditional practice of growing its own food.
“I believe that it is only in so doing that we can have any impact on our huge food import bill. Maybe our churches can start by planting more fruit trees and the Productivity Council can lead our communities in terms of planting additional fruit trees and growing more food.
“This is critical because I believe that if we can put a dent at least in our food import bill, some of the discussion we are having today about foreign reserves and even productivity may become more subdued,” the Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Central argued.
Lashley expressed some concern that locally grown fruit trees were being threatened by increasing human activities such as housing, and suggested that a balance has to be struck between housing the country’s people and feeding them.