The Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) is “deeply concerned” about the current state of the economy, and is calling for urgent short-term solutions to be implemented at the level of the Social Partnership.
In a six-page document issued this afternoon, the association said the Social Partnership was underutilized and should meet urgently in order to have “meaningful dialogue on fiscal policy and infrastructural priorities”.
The BPSA also recommended the establishment of an oversight committee to monitor the implementation of Government’s economic policy, as well as an “efficiency committee” that would focus on the ease of doing business in Barbados, adding that Government, labour and the private sector had “general agreement” on those actions.
“The Barbados Private Sector Association, like other organizations in Barbados, is deeply concerned about the current economic situation. The status quo, in our opinion, cannot be allowed to continue and hence this appeal for a process to be started towards achieving a consensus on how we best can together meet these challenges,” the BPSA stated in the document.
The association identified a range of “underlying problems” it said needed to be urgently addressed, including lack of confidence among domestic and foreign investors, lenders and entrepreneurs in Government’s ability to meet its commitments, especially in the long-term.
It listed “the printing of money and an unsustainable fiscal deficit; an imbalance in the earning and spending of foreign exchange worsened by some leakage of that foreign exchange; low levels of productivity across all sectors of the economy, including allowing hundreds of acres of arable land to lie idle; impediments to entrepreneurial activity, particularly in areas oriented towards earning foreign exchange; difficulties in doing business; management in the private sector; demoralization among civil servants having to work in an archaic environment where administrative inadequacy creates inefficiencies; costs associated with inordinate delays and processes in the judicial system; increases in both rumours of corruption, and anti-social behaviour stemming from the prevalence of illegal drugs” as other underlying problems.
The BPSA said the Social Partnership provided the means whereby Government could initiate discussion on each of the major issues besetting the economy and debate the policy options before embarking upon any further or additional fiscal policies and infrastructural priorities.
Stating that “local circumstances are entirely within our control”, The BPSA added that the island had the capacity to resolve its problems by tapping into the intellectual potential of Barbadians at home and abroad.
It said it was optimistic the objectives of making Barbados “truly globally competitive, caring, fair and disciplined” could be achieved.
“The Barbados Private Sector Association urges individuals and the leaders of associations of all kinds to support this call publicly, and to commit themselves to the effort and sacrifice that Barbados needs from them,” the private sector grouping said.
“It goes without saying that this is no time for partisan political thinking or advantage seeking by the private sector and the trade unions. This is a time to analyze and tackle all our difficulties objectively and collectively and to do so in that same spirit of cooperation which served us well in not dissimilar circumstances 25 years ago when we correctly rejected devaluation, and fixed our foreign exchange and deficit problems,” it said, while acknowledging that the island was facing one of the most prolonged socioeconomic crises since independence.
The umbrella agency of private sector organizations argued that if things were allowed to stay the same it would be a recipe for disaster with everyone made to “break for themself”.
The BPSA explained that the suggested oversight committee would be a subcommittee of the Social Partnership whose the sole purpose would be to monitor the fiscal, monetary and quantitative targets set by the Government to ensure they are met and to advise on any necessary remedial action.
“This in itself would provide a level of accountability and transparency thereby restoring investor and public confidence in the economic recovery.
It said “immediate consideration” should also be given to the reestablishment of a separate committee which focuses on saving of foreign exchange and increasing the earning capacity of all Barbadian businesses.
The organization recommended that the private sector, the trade union movement, the public sector and academia should be represented on these committees, which should publish regular reports on their progress.
“The short term solutions have been broadly discussed with the Prime Minister who has committed to improved dialogue with the Social Partnership. Our own call now is for the urgent start of a process which can be carried forward by all the Social Partners on the basis of joint involvement and joint ownership,” the BPSA said.