After experiencing a tough 12 months of commerce and a not so merry Christmas this year, the business community is being put on notice not to expect things to significantly improve in 2019 either.
This caution has come from President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Ezra Prescod, who said while he was optimistic that economic conditions would slowly begin to improve next year, he did not expect it to result in any massive gains for businesses just yet.
Prescod told Barbados TODAY that with some capital projects scheduled to begin early next year, this should result in some “movement in the economy”.
“What I would hope occurs is that as the construction activity starts to pick up you get a sort of feed onto the rest of the economy where other sectors are able to pick up, including retail,” said Prescod.
“I am optimistic, but I don’t think that 2019 is going to be a whole heap better. I think what you are going to see is confidence coming and as a result of that confidence the economy starts to turn over and then maybe in about 18 months or so we should start to see Barbados really start to flourish.
“As the actual measures imposed by the government and the business sector start to pick up, we should get some activity that really speaks to the changes we need to see in retail,” he explained.
Since October this year merchants in Bridgetown have been reporting slow sales and they were not optimistic about the Christmas period, which turned out to be less than favourable.
Looking back at the last year, Prescod said it started out with “a bit of uncertainty” among the business community given the economic conditions, and the fact that election was due by May, made it no easier.
Many said the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, which included the imposition of new tax measures and retrenchment of some civil servants, further dampened business activities by diminishing people’s spending power.
A check with some businesses and shoppers following the Christmas period revealed that consumers were being “very cautious with their spending” due to Government’s retrenchment exercise, which saw close to 1,000 civil servants being sent home so far.
“That would have been manifested in the weak sales output,” said Prescod. “To say this year was a good year wouldn’t be accurate,” he added.
With December normally accounting for about two-thirds of the annual sales of most retailers, Prescod said this year turned out to be “extremely weak” when compared to previous years. However, he maintained that he was looking forward to 2019 with great optimism.