Barbados’ Private Sector Association (BPA) leadership is rejecting any suggestion that the business class on the island was putting profits before people.
Edward Clarke, chairman of the BPA, who is also a senior executive of Sagicor Financial Corporation, told Barbados TODAY any criticism suggesting such was unfair.
Commenting on the decision to reopen businesses on a phased basis after several weeks of a shutdown and curfew, Clarke said: “If you shut down a small economy like this five weeks or so, it is going to have a very long-term impact on that country. We could not afford to remain closed for much longer.
“This economy was at a standstill and basically a lot of people would have had long-term damage to their economic situations going forward. Many, many businesses would have collapsed and many more people would have been laid off for an indefinite time. I mean lost their jobs for a long time to come.”
Clarke’s own company Sagicor now has all its employees working from their homes and has given them the assurance that their jobs are safe for the next few months, despite the impact of COVID-19 on the insurance company’s revenue.
“I don’t think we have been in any way overly aggressive on [reopening businesses]. I think we have waited until we believed the Government had this under control. The Government has done a very good job managing the health situation but we felt it was time that we have economic activity going again in a managed way. You have to follow protocols, you have to ensure that your employees are safe, that distancing is managed and followed, and that employees’ rights are protected.
“We could not all sit back and just wait for the Government to give us unemployment benefits for the next 13 weeks and expect that that would take Barbados out of where it was. That was not the solution for the country and Government realised that also,” the private sector leader pointed out.
According to Clarke: “I think it is the right time, and we are lucky, that Barbados over the last 18 to 24 months, has had very strong economic management through the International Monetary Fund guidance and the BERT (Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation) programme to pull us out of the debt to GDP situation. The economy is much better, if not, we wouldn’t be able to do what the Government is doing today. That would not have been possible.
“We are very lucky that much of the hard work that we have gone through for the past two years is going to put us in good stead to get through this even worse situation at this time.” (IMC1)