The bleeding has stopped. And from all indications, the ailing Barbados economy is on a sure path to recovery.
This declaration has come from Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who said today that all the country’s economic indicators were pointing in the right direction, following measures taken by her almost year-old administration.
However, insisting that Barbados was still in need of an operation called transformation, the prime minister said private sector companies and all individuals must play a part in that process.
“We know that the bleeding has stopped, the rot has stopped and that is critical. But we have now to do the operation that allows for the transformation of the country’s circumstances, the transformation of the workers’ circumstances, the transformation of the owners of capital and employers’ circumstances,” she said.
Mottley’s comments came in her address to the annual luncheon of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Wednesday.
She said the international reserves have grown significantly from its once precarious position to reach just under $1.1 billion, while the dangerously high debt to gross domestic product (GDP) has been lowered to 125 per cent, from 171 per cent last year.
This, said Mottley, was an indication that things had stabilized and the treasured Barbados dollar, which is pegged at BDS$2 to US$1, was now safe.
“The national mission must now be for Bajans to be the best that they can be,” Mottley told her captive audience of private sector representatives.
She cautioned that the transformation of the Barbados economy that was now needed could go beyond four years.
“Will we always achieve it? No. But the failure to achieve it on occasions does not allow us to remove it from our strategic national mission,” said Mottley.
Her comments come as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this week wraps up its visit to the island for the review of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
The team, which is visiting the island May 7 and 17 to assess the country’s performance under the IMF programme, is expected to deliver its verdict on Friday. Once the economy has passed all the benchmarks a second tranche of US$49 million should be disbursed by July.
The IMF is funding the BERT programme to the tune of US$290 million under an Extended Fund Facility arrangement, and this is the second review since the programme officially started in October last year.
Explaining the transformation needed to bring the economy back to its glory days, Mottley said it would include legislative changes, which have already started; improvement in the ease of doing business; improvements in the facilitation processes; digitization of some government records, and “deconstruction and reconstruction of every public service in Barbados”; as well as the training and retooling of public sector workers.
She said it also included the recent changes to the personal and corporation tax rates, empowerment, retraining and enfranchisement of public sector workers.
“There are things that we have done as a government in the last 11 months and three weeks that we will continue to do,” she added.
At the same time Mottley raised questions regarding the use of technology for better collaboration between government departments and those with whom it does business; putting measures in place to protect people who are being discriminated against “now or could be in the future”; and measures to empower more individuals.
“Barbados is our business and you now must play your part in its transformation so that we can be the best we can be globally and nationally,” she told the private sector gathering.
“Within the context of individuals and companies it requires us to reflect a level of empathy and care to carry along those who cannot carry themselves,” said Mottley, who added, “What makes this journey special is that it has been shared.”
Pointing out that she was operating with “two allies – God and time” Mottley said having come through the first six months “as well as we have”, the country was “on course to do something extraordinary” in this world.
“But we will not do it by abandoning mission or we will not do it by not amplifying for others to hear and to share what the mission is,” she said.