On the first working day of her new life as the island’s political leader, Prime Minister Mia Mottley met with the Social Partners at Government Headquarters today in a bid to find common ground on how to fix the ailing economy.
One of the major concerns was the stability of the Barbados dollar, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report issued in January, but which the then Freundel Stuart administration kept secret, was under threat.
The 2017 Article IV report, which Mottley made public as one of her first official acts, revealed that instead of US$1 for every BDS$2 in circulation here, there is now US$1 for BDS$11.12 in circulation.
Following today’s meeting, described by those present as upbeat and positive, Mottley revealed that the labour movement and business sector were both eager and willing to work with her administration during the stabilization process.
And in release issued later through the Barbados Government Information Service, the Prime Minister said the Social Partnership was in full agreement that the value of the Barbados dollar must be protected at all cost.
“I believe that we are all agreed on our efforts to stabilize the country . . . .What I can say clearly is that all of us are absolutely sure that we have to maintain this fixed exchange rate and the preservation of the value of the Barbados dollar,” Mottley said, while promising to release more details on plans for rebuilding Barbados’ ailing economy, whose foreign reserves stood at $423 million and whose debt was 151 per cent of the gross domestic product at the end of March.
Today’s meeting was attended by Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association Charles Herbert; President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados Cedric Murrell; General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWI) Toni Moore; and President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall, among others. Also present were Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs Senator Lucille Moe; Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan; Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs Marsha Caddle and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn.
While discussions are expected to continue on Friday, Herbert told Barbados TODAY he was buoyed by the level of urgency displayed by the new Prime Minister.
“We are very satisfied and we are very impressed with the urgency which matters are being dealt with,” Herbert said while refusing to go into great detail for fear of pre-empting the final report, which is to be presented to the public after the next meeting.
“What I can tell you is that a lot is happening. We had a very productive and fast moving meeting with lots of action plans. We have agreed that a full report would be made available to the public after the meeting on Friday,” he added.
Similar sentiments were expressed by McDowall, who said the meeting provided a platform from which the country could move forward.
“I am sensing that everybody is willing to work together because the general environment of the meeting has changed tremendously. People are now more upbeat and they believe that things are possible and we also believe that the Prime Minister and her colleagues are willing to listen, which is very important in this type of exercise,” McDowall said.
Meanwhile Moore described the talks as “refreshing”, adding that it gave those involved “an opportunity to engage very meaningfully on a number of issues that will define our course throughout the coming weeks and month”.
“The meeting was very cordial and frank across the board,” Moore said.