The Mia Mottley-led administration is getting the full backing of business for its performance during its first 100 days in office.
The Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) today lauded the swiftness with which the new Government introduced revenue-raising measures as outlined in the June 11 austerity Budget and its economic programme overall, revealing that the administration’s decisiveness had improved the ease of doing business here.
However, BCCI President Edward Clarke has warned that the road ahead will be tough and the recovery will be long in coming.
“There is still a long way to go. Barbados is in a very weak [economic] position. A lot of work needs to be done. We must transform how Government works and how the private sector works,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.
As part of her Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, Mottley, who also has finance as part of her portfolio, decided to default on
international debt payments, and to restructure the country’s debts to local creditors.
Clarke appeared to remain neutral on that decision, but warned that debt restructuring ought not be too deep because of the potential negative impact on the financial services sector, the largest holder of Government debt.
“Obviously the debt restructuring is ongoing, but whatever happens there . . . we cannot afford a level of debt restructuring that impacts the financial services sector to such a degree that it will negatively impact how business in that sector is done in Barbados,” he said.
The BCCI boss, who also acts as Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association, was also pleased with Government’s decision to restructure state-owned enterprises.
He said it was a necessary move, even as he insisted that “we need to ensure that work is carried out fully and the total Government cost is reduced”.
One area for which Mottley has received generous praise across the board is communication, with Barbadians welcoming her administration’s regular updates on various matters, coming in the wake of a virtual blackout on information by the Freundel Stuart-led administration that preceded the BLP.
This has also impressed Clarke mightily, and he commended the administration for its interaction with the business community in particular.
“Generally speaking, I think the Government has done quite well for a new Government. There are a lot of new members of Cabinet and it will take a while for some of them to get a good grasp on how Government works and what their roles are, but there has been a lot of participation and discussions going on between the members of the Cabinet and various members of the private sector,” he said.
“They seem willing to listen and that is a critical part of driving this economy because Government cannot do it alone and private sector cannot do it alone,” he said.
He also commended the BLP administration and the two major unions for the timely settlement of a pay rise for public servants, as well as Government’s commitment to solving the island’s sewage and garbage woes.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) Reginald Farley described the BLP’s first 100 days in office as effective, pointing out that a number of outstanding issues were being tackled from day one.
He said this was evident by Government’s decision to seek help from the IMF, regular communication and information sharing, and consultation with the Social Partnership.
Farley, who has been named by the Mottley Government as High Commissioner-designate to Canada, also commended the administration for “outlining a three-stage set of measures”, which he said would “restore the country to some element of fiscal discipline”.
“They have given a commitment to address all of our problems upfront rather than kicking the can further down the road,” he said, adding that ICAB was also pleased to see measures outlined to reduce Government’s expenditure over time.
“Additionally, one of the matters that had been kicked down the road for a while has been the restructuring of the very operations of Government, particularly with regard to state owned enterprises and the debt,” he said.
Government has indicated that phases two and three of its BERT plan would include the restructuring of state owned enterprises.
However, Farley warned of the need for a “governance code” within state enterprises, as well as improvement in the level of financial reporting, stressing this was necessary for the country to reap both short and long-term benefits.