Prime Minister Mia Mottley wants less talk and more action to press the over $9 billion held in the banking system to work to help dig the island out of its economic doldrums.
In fact, Mottley said the time for talk was over and it was now time for action, pointing out that if there was ever a time for the country to have “entities that could be appropriate financial intermediaries” it is now.
Speaking late this evening at the unveiling ceremony and cocktail reception of the Enterprise Growth Fund Ltd (EGFL) at Monteith Gardens, Barbarees Hill the island’s first female Prime Minister noted that too often residents have lamented the fact that they were getting less than favourable returns on their savings in commercial banks. With Barbados a few months into an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, she believes the over $9 billion in savings piling up in the banking system should be “appropriately used” in order to help the country grow its way out of its economic hole.
She insisted that Barbados’ growth should not only depend on direct foreign investment given the liquidity in the system.
“This is a difficult pill for us to swallow and we have come to the conclusion as a government that we have simply to do better as a region and a country in being able to mobilize our savings to the productive purposes of growth in our country and in our region,” Mottley told the gathering at the ceremony where a plaque was unveiled in celebration of the organization’s 21st anniversary.
The prime minister did not give details of the plan she had in mind to unlock the savings in the banking system, but said it was about time that mechanisms were put in place “to bring a level of financial literacy” throughout the society and “close the circle of economic enfranchisement”.
At the same time, Mottley said regionally the situation was similar, pointing out that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had US$47 billion in savings.
She said with that kind of money “we are in a far better position to be able to finance our development, but we are simply not acting with the strategic purpose that we ought to be acting”.
In fact, Mottley said the region was allowing a “scattershot approach to diffuse the benefits that can otherwise accrue to us of that level of accumulated savings”.
She said she was hoping Friday would be the last time such a message was delivered against a background of a “failing by our region to be able to put forward an adequate plan” that would allow CARICOM to accomplish the development it needed.
She said for Caribbean countries to better facilitate greater returns on capital to their citizens and afford producers and businesses cheaper cost of capital to grow, there must be better mechanisms put in place.
Equally, she said, there was need for “appropriate levels of financial literacy” among the region’s population.
“It cannot be that we continue to labour under myths that have come to characterize our population, rather than confronting the stark reality of our circumstances,” said Mottley, while urging Barbadians to see the rest of the region as their place to do business.
Adding that Barbados had the capacity to make a difference through tourism, renewable energy and information and communication technology, Mottley said “the choice is now ours to stop talking and to do”.
Chairman of the EGFL Condé Riley said his organization was an example of corporate governance, as he pointed to the growth of the fund over the past two decades and constant production of on time, audited financial statements.
“The performance of this company has been underpinned by sound corporate governance. We all know that a sound corporate governance framework is the bedrock of any successful enterprise. The EGFL is no exception . . . This institution is therefore now an example of what we really want to replicate if we are to build the kind of Barbados of which we can be proud,” he said, acknowledging that “like any other financial institution, we have had our challenges” over the years.
He pledged the institution’s continued support to help develop small and medium enterprises across a range of sectors and to support the restructuring and transformation of the Barbados economy.
“I look forward to working with this institution to assist with the challenge of resuscitating this island we call home and I hope with the assistance of my board we can leave an indelible footprint in keeping with the national strategic goal,” he said. [email protected]