Amid a rough economic climate, the private sector today warned that it could no longer afford to maintain jobs out of sheer patriotism.
President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed told a BCCI business luncheon at the Hilton this afternoon that as a result of the “restraint and maturity exhibited by the private sector” the country has been able to maintain employment at well over 100,000 people.
He also said the sector had chosen to put social considerations above the bottom line for a protracted period, to its own detriment.
“This has however come at a cost of lower profit levels and reduced capital investment in new and existing ventures. Our economic future is at best uncertain. In fact, uncertainty and a lack of confidence are the two buzzwords that I hear from businesses,” Abed said.
Though he did not explicitly state that layoffs were on the horizon, Abed cautioned that it could not be business as usual while suggesting that Barbadians must be willing to shed their cloak of entitlement and be prepared to pay their way.
“I am aware that the entitlements that many take for granted for the last two generations must be reviewed and a buffet of options guided by means testing, user fees and outsourcing will have to be embraced.
“The toughest obstacle in my opinion would require a reboot of a generally poor customer service and a generally low productivity in both the private and public sectors,” the BCCI president said.
“Unless all Barbadians recognize that the gravy train will no longer provide an easy ride as before, and every citizen must be meaningfully engaged in a work environment, we will forever be chasing an elusive lifestyle that cannot be maintained,” he added. His comments came against the backdrop of two recent economic downgrades and a significant drop on the island’s foreign reserves to less than $700 million, or less than 12 weeks of import cover, that threatened the stability of the Barbados dollar.
With strong concern also being registered about the national debt, which reached 111 per cent of gross domestic product at the end o 2016, Abed said: “Sadly this calamitous situation has continued unabated, the results are everywhere to be seen. Government services have drastically deteriorated, as generally there has not been any realistic allotment for maintenance or replacement of essentially equipment. Yet we are told that our Central Bank continues to print money at the dizzying amount of $50 million per month to pay public servants . . .
“Consequently I am fully aware that there has to be further austerity and I fear that the medicine would most certainly be bitter, but opportunities would abound to invest in local gems which are scratched or even chipped but could shine again if properly managed and capitalized,” he added.