The business community is welcoming the announcement of a date for the general election, even as it warns that only the poll will bring confidence back to the economy.
The two major private sector groupings, the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA), and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), both reacted with relief after Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced through the Barbados Government Information Service that a general election will be held on May 24, with Nomination Day set for May 7.
“We are glad for an election date,” Charles Herbert, the BPSA chairman told Barbados TODAY in an immediate reaction to the announcement.
After Parliament was allowed to dissolve automatically on March 6, Herbert was among private sector leaders, political pundits and Opposition politicians calling on Stuart to end the delay and ring the election bell, citing as their primary reason declining confidence in an already moribund economy.
In fact, Herbert had argued that the sooner the elections were held the earlier a number of policies could be implemented, including the recently-approved Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan.
Today, he said while the private sector was happy that a date had been set, certainty would not return until a Government was in place with policies that “can hold for five years”.
“The certainty is not going to come before election date; the certainty is going to come after. So we are glad for an election date. That is a definite step towards it. We are glad to hear when it is going to happen, not that it was ever going to happen more than two weeks later. We were down to the wire,” the local businessman said.
“I wouldn’t say that it has changed certainty because there was very little room to manoeuvre at this stage, but we welcome it and we welcome a good process and we welcome getting down to business after it. So it is good. The sooner the elections are done in the way we are accustomed to in Barbados and are behind us, that would bring the certainty.”
Herbert stressed that business owners were also voters, but urged the private sector to be professional, preferring that they “stand in the background and let the population make their mind up”.
He also called on the wider population to “remain calm” as they get ready to “exercise their rights sensibly”.
Meanwhile, BCCI President Eddy Abed told Barbados TODAY merchants were elated that a date had finally been announced, following months of waiting.
“Sadly, over the past two months since Parliament was prorogued, the level of uncertainty peaked and investments into our economy troughed as uncertainty forced many to delay their plans,” Abed said.
The businessman also called for Barbadians to remain peaceful during the campaign.
“I hope that the next month of canvassing will be conducted in a mature and professional manner as we should all endeavour to place our country before political party. There will be much to be done over the next five years and our economic options will be limited. So rhetoric and gimmicking should be unwelcomed in place of sound plans which must include participation and oversight by the Social Partnership.”
Abed’s BCCI colleague, Edward Clarke, the organization’s senior vice president, also chimed in by calling on the political parties vying to form the next Government to take the process seriously and not “promise what they cannot afford going forward”.
“We look forward in the private sector to working with the newly-elected Government whoever that may be, to ensure the Barbados economy gets back on the right path and preserve the future of Barbados,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.