Barbadians should brace for a far-reaching International Monetary Fund (IMF) balance of payments support programme.
The warning from President of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Charles Herbert, as a team from the Washington-based lending institution wrapped up a ten-day fact finding mission to the island that began on July 2.
Before departing the island, the IMF team met with members of the business community today.
And though very few answers were forthcoming during those closed-door talks, Herbert told Barbados TODAY that one thing was clear – the pending restructuring programme would have far-reaching impacts, beyond those interests represented by the Social Partnership, made up of Government, private sector and labour.
Herbert therefore suggested that there was a need for a broad national conversation on the way forward.
“Restructuring could be a very wide topic, which would affect Barbadians. It is something, which requires broad discussion and debate so that the wider public could be involved and have a say on what they would like to happen,” Herbert explained, while pointing out that “60 per cent of our local debt is held by National Insurance and the Central Bank, so this programme is going to affect every one”.
His comments came on the heels of a suggestion made earlier this week by President of the National Union of Public Workers Akanni McDowall that job cuts may be unavoidable, even though his union wished that such was not the case.
“We met with the IMF . . . . The discussion was cordial, and we emphasized the point that we were trying to minimize, or if not prevent, job losses,” McDowall told Barbados TODAY following discussions with the visiting IMF team, adding that his union was concerned about “the social aspect of the economic recovery”.
However, the BPSA president today refused to speculate on the likely recommendations from the Fund, while cautioning that it was still early days yet in terms of determining the precise cuts that would be made.
“The reality is that it is far too early because the IMF is still in the fact-gathering phase,” he told Barbados TODAY following today’s meeting in which he said “people asked a lot of questions because they wanted to know the time frame for negotiations with Government, as well as the type of things that the IMF is going to require in their programme. So there were broad questions that a lot of members wanted to understand, but to be honest there were no answers”.
However, despite the lack of answers, the BPSA head told Barbados TODAY that his members left the meeting with a positive outlook and remain fully confident that the Mia Mottley-led Government, which is grappling with a $15 billion national debt, will successfully negotiate a palatable programme with the IMF.
“I think we are very positive because we realize that the team that is here does not have authority to commit to anything. Only their board back in Washington have that authority, so this team was always going to be cautious with its answers,” he said, adding that “I don’t think that any of us have reason to doubt that Barbados can negotiate a successful programme with the IMF”.