Acting Prime Minister Richard Sealy believes Barbados’ economy is headed in the right direction and that the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has no reason to be ashamed of its performance in office.
“This Government must also be commended for the effort, even in a horrible period in terms of the global economy,” Sealy said while citing a recent drop in unemployment from 10.2 per cent during the first six months of last year to 9.7 per cent for corresponding period in 2017.
“Unemployment is at single digits for the first time in a very long time in Barbados,” he told a DLP branch meeting at the Wesley Hall Junior School on Saturday night, adding that this was “one of the key metrics that you keep your eye on”.
And though conceding that the rate of joblessness was at single digits when the Opposition Barbados Labour Party was in office, he accused the former Government of putting people in public sector jobs to make the unemployment figures look good.
However, he said “we [in the current administration] have seen unemployment come into single digits in a situation where Government has not been hiring.
“In fact, if you take the overall picture since 2008 we have shed jobs,” he said, stressing that “we are in single digits largely because of the enabling environment and getting increased levels of investment in the private sector, not just flooding the ranks of Government”.
Though acknowledging that the economy was not growing as fast as Government would like, Sealy assured that “we are getting there [and] we are going in the right direction”.
He also told the gathering of DLP faithful that they should not feel pressured, “at a time when taxes are perhaps a little higher than we want”.
“You can defend it because your party has always been the party even in the most difficult of times to put people policies in place,” the acting Prime Minister said.
“We don’t have anything to be ashamed of as a party. The party has kept focused on what’s important. The party continues to run this country in what we regard as a very effective manner.”
Warning that Government must be prepared to make the difficult decisions, he said “some of the measures that we take as a Government, even if they have a small pinch, [they are] designed . . . in the best interest of all Barbadians, including ordinary Barbadians, because it can’t be only for the here and now, we have to think also of down the road.
“If for example a tax increase in one respect is required, that is done with a view of avoiding much more painful measures that could result if you don’t do it,” he said.
In this regard, Sealy praised Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, who was in attendance at the meeting, for “keeping everything on an even keel”.
“It is still good while we value the importance of the social infrastructure that is needed for everyone that we are still running those affairs in a sound and disciplined manner,” he added.