A leading private sector official is calling for a discussion on the future of the Barbados dollar soon after the May 24 general election.
Chief Executive Officer of Williams Industries Tom Hall today argued that the currency was not as strong as it once was, and this was the root cause of a lot of the country’s economic problems.
“I see the currency of the Barbados dollar has been extremely illiquid and it is not functioning as a unit of exchange at the moment,” Hall told the 58th annual general meeting of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“There are many good reasons why we have it pegged at two to one [to the US dollar]. All I am saying is, once the political environment of an election goes away there should be a sensible discussion about the best currency for us or how the Barbados dollar can become great again,” Hall told a panel discussion on The Path Back to Prosperity.
He said the country had one of the lowest crime rates in the region, strong democracy and rule of law, and “things function generally” despite challenges, but insisted there were currently too many risks associated with the currency.
“I think Barbados would take off if we would just de-risk that currency . . . .If you don’t have a liquid currency, you might love Barbados for all the reasons I have said, but it is going to be nagging at you, ‘am I going to get my money out?’ You have to be able to get your money out, you have to be able to have cash flow,” Hall said.
The Williams Industry executive said his own company was having a “massive struggle” investing abroad because “the currency situation is so tight”.
“When we want to invest out it is a massive struggle at the moment because the currency situation is so tight, it is almost impossible to invest out . . . It is a real struggle to get those tens of thousands of dollars out to join forces with some of the big hitters with whom we can build a business. Eventually once you invest out you get the dividend flow coming back in. If you don’t have that then we can’t grow . . . as a nation because we can’t expand brilliant companies, the brilliant people outside of our [current] market. So the currency is a real issue and I ask that it be looked at calmly in the next election cycle,” Hall recommended.
The businessman also called for the much talked about Prevention of Corruption Act to be proclaimed as soon as the next administration assumes office, stating it would be an “excellent” first step, and would then require enforcement and continued support from “all the influential” organizations here.
He also stated that given the size of the public sector it was critical for there to be financial transparency.
Hall argued that for long-term economic prosperity, two years after the May 24 election Government should ensure that all state-owned enterprise had up-to-date audited financials to give Government and the public a more accurate picture of “how they have spent the public’s money”.
“The state owned enterprise is less of a profit function but it still uses capital, it still needs to have the capital directed efficiently. So if you can do that and you can do the anti-corruption [legislation] those are two achievable things and whatever Government comes in would have those two things on their list and we can build from that,” Hall said.