Prime Minister Mia Mottley on Saturday presented her Government’s five-month report card, on the progress made on its mission critical agenda, even as she urged supporters to stay focused.
Delivering the feature address at the Barbados Labour Party’s 80th Annual General Conference at The Lodge School auditorium, the political leader said her party was given a mandate like no other in the history of the county.
However, she explained that her administration had been methodically going through the task of rebuilding the country since assuming office following the 30-0 victory in May 24 general election.
“This is our moment in time to stay focus. This is a relay race. We have to get each leg of the relay right. We have to deal with our debt . . . and I have to tell you that we are on our way to dealing with it,” Mottley told the packed school auditorium, pointing to decisions made on the domestic debt exchange and the suspension of the international debt payments on June 1.
“Many thought that we were doing the wrong thing by suspending the payments. They have now come to recognize as we conclude the domestic debt exchange successfully I may say, by having 97.6 per cent of those eligible to vote, voting and by having 99.6 per cent of those voting, voting in favour of the new bonds.
“. . . And while some are uneasy, we have done that domestic debt exchange while leaving no financial institution in this country insolvent. We have done it by asking everybody to help us bear the burden and the savings to the country will be significant,” she said.
In the coming weeks and months she said her Government would focus on the external debt exchange.
“The meetings are taking place but I could assure you that in the case of Grenada and St Kitts the debt exchanges took one to two years – I remind you today is five months that the Government has been sworn into [office]”.
Against the backdrop of “perilously low” foreign reserves the country’s first female Prime Minister said that her administration had to face the International Monetary Fund “more so for a prognosis that others would trust because going to them was more about locking access to other forms of capital”.
The IMF’s October 1 stamp of approval on the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme has given the country access to capital from other financial bodies, with the Caribbean Development Bank being the first to come on board, she explained.
“The magic is not in signing the loan, the magic is in the confidence that the board of the Caribbean Development Bank has displayed in the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation plan because nobody lends you money if they don’t believe in what you are doing. Within a few weeks the Inter-American Development Bank will have the opportunity to cast their judgement on that plan,” she added.
Mottley then turned her attention to Government’s handling of other “mission critical” issues, citing the removal of the National Social Responsibility Levy, the road tax, the “iniquitous” tax clearance certificate, the south coast sewage issues and others, saying, “promise made, promise delivered”.
“I am happy that I can stand before you today to be able to report progress on the mission critical agenda. Have we gotten a hundred per cent? Not yet, but . . . six months is not over yet either, the BLP leader stated.
Mottley revealed that there was a possibility the Government may . . . need to ask for two or three more months on the mission critical agenda “because of the depth of what [we] have found and what [we] continue to find.
“But what we have done is to gain substantial progress in the task of dealing with our debt, the task of dealing with our reserves that have been stabilized by the continued assistance of the international financial [community]. . . having confidence in our programme and recognizing that this transformation programme requires stability of our foreign reserves if we are to garner the confidence of those who want to invest either locally or internationally,” the Prime Minister explained.
“I say to you . . . that we have not reached where we want to reach . . . it is five months, but we are well on our way . . . .We will not forget ever that we were elected to solve the people’s problems mission critical or otherwise . . . to transform the people’s lives [and] by extension the nation,” she added.