From back-to-school, the business community has gone to wait-and-see as it shifts attention to the Christmas period.
While confidence seems to be slowly returning to the economy, business owners still expect it to take some time before Government’s ongoing restructuring exercises will pay off for merchants, president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Edward Clarke has told Barbados TODAY.
Clarke pointed out that things have not been “bright” since the start of this year, adding that Barbadians were generally conservative spenders.
“We like to know we have something in the back pocket and I think people are waiting to see what is the true impact of a lot of the measures that are being taken,” Clarke said.
“Business has slowed down in Barbados this year. There is no doubt it. There is some confidence coming back but the economy is still very, very weak and a lot depends on how we can stimulate this economy going forward,” he explained.
With Government currently embarking on a restructuring of state-owned enterprises and entering into an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, Clarke said private sector officials were expecting there to be some job losses.
But he said the business community remained optimistic that there would not be any significant fallout.
In outlining the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, members of the Barbados economic recovery team have given the assurance that there are to be no mass layoffs as Government embarks on the restructuring exercise.
Under the BERT programme, it is expected that while some public sector workers would lose their jobs, others will be “retrained and empowered, retooled and enfranchised” as some state entities are merged, placed in the hands of the private sector or become part of a public/private sector partnership.
Clarke, who is also the acting Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association, said the private sector would have to step up to the plate in order to provide jobs over the long term.
He said he was hopeful that a number of projects would start in the short-term to offset any job losses.
But as the Chamber of Commerce looks head to the upcoming Christmas period, its president said that right now things were not looking rosy.
“Christmas this year, at this time I don’t see any major improvements in the next few months. A lot depends on what the final restructuring and transformation programme . . . and what is agreed with the IMF (International Monetary Fund),” he said, adding that a lot also depended on how the financial services sector was impacted.
“I think that will have a big impact on what is being done in the business sector in Barbados,” he added.
Acknowledging that the country had a long way to go in order to return to economic prosperity, Clarke said both Government and the private sector had to also transform how they operated.
“The private sector must be willing to play our own role and continue to drive the economy forward but we need the playing field level – we need the facilitation and we need to be able to grow the businesses in Barbados and attract new foreign investment in Barbados. That is a key to driving the success of Barbados forward – stimulating the growth and getting this economy going again,” he told Barbados TODAY.