A leading business executive is suggesting that the decision by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler to turn to former Prime Minister Owen Arthur to lead his economic advisory team was an admission that Sinckler was unhappy with the advice he had been receiving.
Amid the turmoil surrounding the sacking of Central Bank of Barbados Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell, Sinckler on Monday admitted he was putting together a team of prominent Barbadians to advise him on how to curb escalating debt, shore up foreign exchange reserves and revive the moribund economy.
Although Sinckler did not deny or confirm Arthur’s engagement, the former Prime Minister told Barbados TODAY he had been approached by the minister to be the Chief Economic Advisor, as part of a restructured National Economic Council, and he had accepted the invitation.
Immediate past chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Alex McDonald saw this as a tacit acknowledgement by the Minister of Finance that things had gone wrong and he was not receiving the proper advice on how to correct the problem.
“If it is a set of new persons or for a new focus it is an admission that he is not happy with the advice, either the quality or the quantity of advice he has been getting,” the business executive said.
“I think the unfortunate thing though is that he is not building on a track record of success,” McDonald added.
About a year ago McDonald had stressed the need for an urgent start to a number of pending projects, including the Hyatt hotel and Sam Lord’s Castle redevelopment. He said then this would help to significantly boost investor confidence.
The former BPSA boss said his position remained the same this year, and he appealed to Government to get these projects up and running as quickly as possible.
“There needs to be a much more aggressive implementation unit of these projects and plans if investor confidence is to come back and come back quickly,” he stressed.
McDonald described as “interesting”, measures announced by Sinckler at a news conference yesterday to retain and grow the foreign exchange.
The minister announced that effective this month, investors and developers seeking tax waivers for projects must sell to the Central Bank at least one third of all foreign exchange brought on island through the projects.
In addition, he said upon completion “any foreign sale generated from unit within those developments and for which concessions are attached, no less than 50 per cent of the sale proceeds must be brought onshore, and half of which must be sold” to the monetary authority.
“I think to be quite honest that is a reasonable request,” McDonald said, even as he insisted the caveat would be investors’ confidence in their ability to get back their foreign exchange.
“Probably if we had a higher credit rating and not this crunch on foreign exchange I think the second-guessing rate would be much less and the compliance rate would be much higher.
“But he is doing so against a backdrop where there are question marks about confidence, you know, where are we going. But I think it is something that should have been attended to a while ago in terms of how do we secure and maintain foreign direct investment, how do we maintain that and settle that here rather than it being settled overseas,” he said.