The jury is still out on what state-owned entities the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration will shed or share ownership of in the next phase of its economic recovery plan.
However, Prime Minister Mia Mottley today made it clear that whatever decision was taken would not be driven by what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) deemed necessary, but what was “good” for Barbados.
She said the Social Partnership and the public would get an opportunity to share their thoughts on what public corporations Government should keep, privatize, or share ownership of.
Using the Royal Barbados Police Force, the National Cultural Foundation and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation as examples, Mottley said Barbadians must determine which entities were essential, highly desirable or optional.
“Those comments are without prejudice as to what my Government will do, but I give you those examples to stimulate discussion in the country,” she told today’s Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) luncheon at a packed Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The Prime Minister said there were some tasks that had to be completed “in time to continue our discussions for the contractual loan that will come” from the IMF and concessional development funding from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank.
However, she insisted “we can’t be driven by what is necessary for the IMF. We have to be driven by what is necessary for our own good health”.
The IMF has repeatedly recommended a reduction in Government expenditure, centred on cutting transfers and shedding of some state assets.
Mottley hinted that the planned merger of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, in a partnership between the private sector and Government would not be the only one, stating that similar marriages would be necessary for other entities.
However, she said this would not be in the immediate term since many state-owned enterprises did not have the same “depth and maturity” as the tourism sector.
She told the business community the second phase of her recovery plan would begin at the end of August and run until July 2019, while the third phase would be executed between July 2019 and December 2020.
There will be a fourth phase, the Prime Minister said, which would be “the wrap up” between January and June 2021.
“We have to stick to the timeline,” she stressed.
Mottley, who took over the leadership of Government just over seven weeks ago following the May 24 general election, urged Barbadians not to panic, insisting that “the covenant of hope is there to let you know what we value, what we will protect to our death”.
However, reminded that the next phase of the economic recovery plan would focus on public sector reform, although she did not reveal her plans for the cutting public sector jobs.
And while she stressed talks with the IMF could not be about what the lending agency wanted, Mottley indicated that while there were 1,900 employees in state-owned enterprises in 1966, the number has climbed to about 10,000 today.
“We have reached that point where the consultation cannot be about what the IMF wants even if the timing was driven by the IMF. The consultation has to be about what Barbados needs,” Mottley stressed.
“Phase two and three has to be about refocusing and restructuring those entities that we ultimately would agree upon in the next month, but taking the time to do it properly and to ensure that whether it is partnerships, investment and workers owning as much as anyone else do, whether it is outright sale, whether it is finding the different entity to deliver the particular service, or whether it is bringing proper management and getting greater efficiency on an existing entity, it has to be done,” she explained.