The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government is calling on the private sector to adhere to high standards of transparency and accountability, even as it reiterates its commitment to do the same.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs with responsibility for Investment Marsha Caddle said the Mia Mottley-led administration was willing to work with all stakeholders to achieve this objective.
“As a new Government, we are happy our social partners understand we are all in this together and must bring together our talents and perspectives to help develop this economy,” Caddle told the start of the 12th annual general meeting of the Caribbean Association of Audit Committee Members Inc at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
The economist charged that the country was facing a number of challenges, which she claimed were due to a lack of accountability by the last administration.
“Our arrears have now reached as high as $1.9 billion, or 19 per cent of our GDP [gross domestic product]. This is what happens when the arms of governments are not properly controlled and transparency and accountability are not demanded by the private sector and other people in the country,” she said.
Caddle suggested that to demonstrate its seriousness and openness, the BLP administration was committed to having a “dashboard” to monitor major capital projects.
“It might be a low tech solution, but it will help us with investment, in that when such projects take place, Barbadians can see how well they are progressing, the amount of money spent on them, and identify whether there are cost overruns and why the projects have gone over budget. And this method can apply to big projects as well as smaller ones,” she explained.
She made reference to a recent order by Mottley banning the use of private emails to conduct Government business, arguing that Barbados could fall victim to a major cyber attack.
“We always think these events only occur in the US, Russia, or other big economies, but even if we are not the immediate target, we might be subject to collateral damage given our connections to these bigger economies,” she told the meeting.
Caddle said Government was examining the country’s cyber security platform and would consider partnering with the private sector to ensure that sufficient measures are in place to guard against cyber attacks.
She also addressed the issue of the decline in the international business sector over the past decade, stressing that Barbados must keep up-to-date on changes taking place in the global economy and their implications for the region.
“The international business sector went from earning $356 million in 2007 to $97 million in 2015, owing to regulatory changes, blacklisting, and other issues. It is incumbent on us to ensure we are compliant with all the new developments in this industry,” she stressed.
The BLP campaigned on a promise of transparency, and since sweeping the May 24 general election, Mottley has kept the media updated on several issues, including her talks with the International Monetary Fund.
However, in a major test of this promise of transparency, the administration has failed to explain firings at the National Housing Corporation, with Minister of Housing George Payne not returning calls and Minister of Labour Colin Jordan refusing to comment on the issue.