Prominent economist Avinash Persaud has joined Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s economic team as the new administration seeks to come up with measures to stimulate the economy.
While confirming the news to Barbados TODAY this afternoon, Persaud did not provide details about his new role, but said the team had already been selected and work had already begun.
Careful not to give any hints as to what was in store, the published economist would only say “the team is in place, sleeves rolled up and burning the midnight oil.
“The task is big, but we have an equally big plan.”
While it is still not clear how large the team is, it is faced with the task of turning around an economy bedeviled by falling reserves, which stood at only $423 million or 6.9 weeks of import cover at the end of March, as well as negative growth of 0.7 per cent, a high fiscal deficit of 4.2 per cent; and a massive overall debt of 151 per cent of gross domestic product.
To make way for his new role in Government, Persaud today resigned from his directorship with RBC Royal Bank.
Confirmation of this came from the bank’s Managing Director for Barbados and Regional Operating Officer for the Southern Caribbean Robert de Silva who said in a statement that Persaud’s resignation from all RBC entities and board responsibilities took immediate effect.
In his release, de Silva said it was with bittersweet emotion that the bank accepted the resignation.
“Our loss is a gain for Prime Minister Mia Mottley and the people of Barbados. The new Government will have tough decisions to make in the coming months to help build a better economy for all Barbadians.
“We are pleased to see that experts like Professor Persaud will be playing a key role in this process. On behalf of RBC, I wish Avi, and Prime Minister Mottley all the best in their service to this country,” he added.
Approximately eight months ago, after Persaud was seen accompanying Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit at a United Nations meeting in New York. He later confirmed to Barbados TODAY that he was “Prime Minister Skerrit’s senior advisor, tasked with helping the economic recovery and rebuilding”.
Asked today whether he would be relinquishing that role also, Persaud said no.
“I will continue to support Dominica. We have established a new agency – Climate Resilience Agency of Dominica (CREAD) – and raised 80 per cent of its funding,” he said, adding, “I am putting finishing touches to a draft Climate Resilient Nation Plan that the agency will be following. Work there is on track.”
However, while his work has found favour with Mottley and Skerrit, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur had earlier cautioned Skerrit to think twice about putting his country’s future in the hands of the ex-Paradise development executive chairman, given his role in the “mangled” Four Seasons project between 2010 and 2012.
“Any basic due diligence would tell you that . . . Paradise is mangled and the job of construction of Dominica is massive. It is urgent and will be complex and priority should be given to people who have experience and skill sets to manage complex reconstruction,” Arthur had said at time his Dominica appointment was announced.
However, in a national address in Roseau, Skerrit was full of praise for Persaud, listing the economist’s many accomplishments and the various positions he held internationally.
And while not naming Arthur, Skerrit had taken a jab at those he said “would rather pontificate from a safe distance”. [email protected]