Prime Minister, Mia Mottley says gross under population is one of many major obstacles to the economic development of Barbados and the wider region which was in urgent need of reform.
In her assessment of the region’s economy in San Juan, Puerto Rico during Wednesday’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on the Caribbean Economy on Post-Disaster Recovery, Prime Minister Mottley charged that outdated development models, which need urgent reform, were stifling regional economies.
“We need to reverse the investment by industrialization model of the 50s. The development model must change,” said Mottley, who highlighted a number of key areas where the region continues to fall behind.
“The hidden secret of the Caribbean is that we are under-populated. When you look at Barbados, we are 430 squared kilometers. Singapore is about 670 and is 15 times our population. Guyana is the size of England, Scotland and Wales combined. They have 65 million people, Guyana has 780,000. Suriname is larger than the Netherlands, which has 17 million people, but Suriname has 580,000. I can go on and on and on. We have not changed the discussion; we have not changed the development model,” she charged.
In addition to the need for a significant increase in the population, Prime Minister Mottley argued that Barbados and many of its regional neighbors still lacked a population armed with the skills necessary for development.
“We were satisfied to educate 30 or 40 per cent of the population and let the others come along. That cannot be . . .
we have a benefit that technology removes the hindrances of size and geography and we literally have to invest in the re-education of as many of our people as possible, such that each one matters.”
Mottley also accused regional governments of failing to break away from colonial models of development.
“We have not removed ourselves from being able to distinguish ourselves between Elizabeth [Queen of England] and Isabella [Former Queen of Spain]. And therefore that colonization of the region has put us on a development path that has not maximized our economic resources in the way in which it can,” she said, while adding that even after independence, the actions of more powerful countries have stifled development.
“Part and parcel of our problem in the region, is that the region has been invited on numerous occasions to pursue paths and then when they get good at it, the developed world says ‘no, stop, change, we’re not allowing you to do that anymore as has happened with financial services. And part of the difficulty is that we continue to be unequally yoked in a global discussion. Leaders don’t talk to each other, so you’re unequally yoked in the conversation and therefore those matters that affect development cannot be pursued.”
Mottley further identified a stifling lack of accessible financing from within the region as another hindrance to growth, again chiding local and regional financial institutions for attempting to take advantage of prospective borrowers.
“There’s about US$47 billion in savings and right now if those savings are left in the commercial banks, they attract a savings rate of 0.1%, yet businesses are borrowing at seven, eight, nine and ten per cent throughout the region,” said Mottley, who added that in light of climate change, financing remained critical to the development of a thriving renewable energy sector.
“We have a moral obligation to unlock renewable energy for the benefit of the Caribbean people and to unlock the investments that are possible, but we’ve got to create the instruments that can then be married with foreign capital to make this a real possibility. In my own country we have set a target of 2030 for a fossil fuel free economy at best or a carbon neutral economy at worst because we don’t have a choice.
“We’ve seen our coral reefs die, yet our maritime space is 400 times our land space, but we’ve allowed over the decades our coral reefs to die, with consequential changes in our marine life and coastal erosion and yet tourism is our primary source of business. So we don’t have the luxury of time anymore in the region,” said the PM.