The Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) is hoping that the pending general election will not get in the way of improvements in the economy, productivity and competitiveness.
Executive Director Sheena Mayers-Granville said even as the country prepares for the highly anticipated poll due by the middle of the year, critical matters such as a “comprehensive strategy” to reduce unemployment should not be ignored.
“The most significant national challenges to be addressed are the development of comprehensive strategies that maximize opportunities for the creation of decent and quality employment and minimize adverse effects on employment and working conditions,” Mayers-Granville said in a New Year’s message.
It was just last weekend that Charles Herbert, the chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association, called for a general election so there can be “a Government with a new mandate” to tackle the economy”.
“The sooner we have elections, the sooner we will have action, and it’s not a political statement. We need a Government with a new mandate which will implement decisions quickly,” Herbert was quoted as telling the Sunday Sun newspaper, a comment that riled Minister of Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss.
In a further explanation to Barbados TODAY yesterday afternoon, the business executive made it clear his call for a general election was made on the premise that there was work to be done to drag the economy back from the brink and the current administration had very little time left to get anything done.
“Really, what I am saying is that we need a mandate that needs to make the decisions that need to be made to negotiate. We need a Government who has a term ahead of it. It could be the existing people or it could be a new group,” he said.
Herbert also responded to criticism by Government backbencher James Paul, who described the private sector as disingenuous for pointing fingers at Government over the struggling economy, while refusing to reinvest here.
He admitted that businesses were banking their monies for little to no interest because the existing climate did not engender confidence.
However, confidence is what’s needed to address the economic struggles, including dwindling international reserves, which stood at about 8.7 weeks of import cover or $549.7 million at the end of September 2016, according to Mayers-Granville.
“Current world economic outlook and forecast suggests that economic recovery has continued at a slow pace. However, while the outlook remains challenging, we must approach [this] year with confidence in our own abilities to be able to enact change,” the head of the membership based private sector trade union said.
“Innovation has to be a key pillar in our strategies as the environment around us evolves rapidly and it is no longer business as usual. We must make greater use of, and embrace, the rapidly changing information and communications technologies. We must not fear change, but embrace it as necessary for our long-term survival and prosperity.”
Mayers-Granville called for “a more agile business environment” as well as legal frameworks that “promote formally registered companies that comply with the law and support different forms of employment required by evolving business models based on fundamental principles and rights to work”.
She also recommended the development of a new approach to education, technical vocational education and training, including the formulation of policies to promote lifelong learning.
The BEC executive said the organization itself needed to place greater emphasis on improving individual and corporate efficiency and productivity.
“This will necessitate an in-depth look at improving employee engagement and management skills if we are to lift national productivity and enhance our international, regional and local competitiveness,” she said.