The COVID-19 pandemic is absolutely no excuse for the current state of the Barbadian economy, according to the man aspiring to be the next president of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
In a scathing attack on the country’s social and economic direction under the current administration, Reverend Guy Hewitt, the former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom pointed to other Caribbean countries, which he claims are all performing better than Barbados.
Hewitt also charged that recent first quarter statistics from the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS) may not tell the full story of the country’s unemployment situation.
The cleric was addressing an ethnically diverse audience of about 50 at the Barbados Yacht Club on the topic A path to peace, prosperity and progress where he declared that many of the difficulties facing the country could be overcome with a dose of strong leadership.
“The world bank has indicated that Barbados’ economy fell by 17.6 per cent last year. That is not the issue. The issue is that we are one of the worst performing economies globally,” Hewitt declared to nods from many in the audience.
“This is not about COVID, this is about who we got bout here running our affairs into the ground. Jamaica contracted by 10.2 per cent, Trinidad and Tobago 7.8, even Dominica outperformed us and they are using some of the same advisors, but I guess they are getting better value for money down there.
“According to the IMF, our debt to GDP ratio is at 147 per cent. It ranks us now as the seventh most indebted country in the world and with unemployment through the roof, nobody, except probably the people who say it, feels that unemployment is at 17.2 per cent, because we know that is counting those looking for work and the majority of people in the hotel sector know there is no work out there. So they are not counted,” he added.
While blasting Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s eight-member team of economic advisors, Hewitt lamented the fact that the country continues to be one of the most expensive places in the world where many struggle to make ends meet.
He added that even with the Government looking to expand the financial services sector, the country ranked at 128th on the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings, behind Jamaica (71st), St Lucia (93rd) and Dominica (111th).
He stated: “This is not about party allegiance. We have to be aligned to this land we love, so we need to face facts and get the right people and develop the right strategy and put the right policies in place to chart our way to a stronger, more resilient and diversified and sustainable economy.
“In our tourism sector, we like to feel that we are world beaters. Our tourism product is not even top-ranked in the Caribbean. If you look and see where the top properties are in the Caribbean, they are elsewhere.
“We are now playing around with not being at the leading edge in tourism; our financial services sector is in peril; we have our biggest trading partner in Canada and nobody can find a High Commissioner. Last I heard, he was running behind Hurricane Elsa up in St George North. This is not good enough,” Hewitt contended.
In addition to the economy, the religious leader expressed concern about the social fabric of the society, which, in his opinion, is characterized in many instances by poverty, drug abuse, family dysfunction, non-communicable diseases and mental health issues.
He renewed calls for an overhaul of the country’s social services that bring all welfare agencies and government departments under one central institution.
“We cannot keep throwing money haphazardly at our problems. We need to be able to be systematic about it,” he charged.
Hewitt’s statements came even as he prepares to face off with current DLP President Verla DePeiza for leadership of the party.
When asked about the nature of his Yacht Club presentation, Hewitt said he considered the invitation as an opportunity to interface with an increasingly diverse and inclusive group of Barbadians, some of whom represent the business community.
“As somebody who aspires to lead in Barbados, I have to lead for every Barbadian. So whether it is the business community, the trade union movement, the society, community groups, I have to provide inclusive leadership that brings them all onboard. So I am pleased that the members of the Yacht Club were able to find what I had to say consistent with what their aspirations might be as business leaders or as leaders in their own communities,” said Hewitt. ([email protected])