There is yet another call for Government to act swiftly to pull the island’s economy from the proverbial trenches, even if it means serving up some “bitter medicine”.
President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed stopped short of saying that Barbados should learn from its Caribbean neighbour Jamaica, but pointed to that country’s turnaround in economic fortunes over the last couple of years.
Analyzing the Jamaica experience, Abed said all nationals in that country understood the problem to be solved, and while some options tried before had failed, sitting back and doing nothing was not an option.
“Jamaica for many years was the poster child for poorly managed, and some might even say, failed state. Their currency was losing uncontrollably, their social services were in shambles and both local and foreign investors had lost confidence in the government’s ability to not only stabilize the country but grow it substantially,” Abed pointed out.
“After reaching the point of no return, Jamaica has been growing with strength for the last two-plus years and it is useful to understand how the Jamaicans achieve this,” he said.
The businessman said Jamaica required courageous leadership to serve up the “bad tasting” but necessary medicine through downsizing of some long established social programmes, as well as privatization or the formation of public-private sector partnerships in order to save valuable and scarce financial resources.
He suggested that Barbados was in a similar position and also required bitter medicine to revive the ailing economy.
“Barbados needs bold, courageous and accountable leadership now more than ever before. We cannot put off making tough decisions until after elections . . . if we are to preserve what so many of our forefathers have [shed] sweat, blood and tears for,” Abed said in this month’s Chamber Biz newsletter.
“Let not their tireless efforts and personal sacrifices go in vain. Let the country summon its greatest strength –– that of human capital –– and resolve to undertake the necessary corrective actions that will eventually lead us back to a path of economic stability that we all long for.”
The Barbados economy has been saddled with an unsustainable debt, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and a ballooning fiscal deficit.
Several economists, including the head of the Caribbean Development Bank, as well as private sector interest groups and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party have suggested the economy is worse than the Freundel Stuart administration has been letting out, and have called on Government to reveal its true state and act to prevent further erosion.
“Once the size and complexity of the problem is known then the burden of solving the problem must be shared by all citizens. The solutions to our problems will require further sacrifices by all and it is therefore imperative that all stakeholders should be represented in brainstorming solutions,” Abed pleaded.
Comparing Barbados’ ranking in the 2017 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report to that of Jamaica, Abed said it was clear that the northern Caribbean neighbour was moving in the “right direction”.
In that survey Kingston is ranked number one in the Caribbean at 67 overall, while Bridgetown is ranked 117, behind St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda.