Friday, April 19, 2024

THE ISSUE: Still not past the worst


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MUCH HAS BEEN SAID about the state of Barbados’ economy and Government’s finances in the last seven years.

Depending on who is making the statements, the views vary from conclusions that Barbados is on a recovery path to concern that it is still in difficulty with no sign of a way out.

As is the case when times are tough, the economy continues to be the main topic of national discussion, as demonstrated last week when Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler and former Minister of Finance Owen Arthur shared different views on the state of economy and the fiscal deficit.

Their statements – made in two different settings but on the same day – came following the release of the Central Bank’s first quarter review. That review said the economy grew by almost one per cent in the first three months of the year, and was expected to grow by as much as two per cent for the rest of the year. It also pointed to increase foreign reserves, increased tourism arrivals, and Government turning a deficit last year into a $37 million surplus.

Outside of the views offered by the political class, specifically the members of the ruling Democratic Labour Party and Opposition Barbados Labour Party, there are individuals and institutions who have voiced their views on the Barbados economy.

In the middle

In some cases these people and institutions have fallen somewhere in the middle of statements that the Barbados economy is on the road to recovery versus it being still in the doldrums.

They include senior bankers Republic Bank (Barbados) Limited managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) Ian De Souza, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank chief executive officer Rik Parkhill and First Citizens (Barbados) Limited CEO Glyne Harrison, who is also president of the Barbados Bankers’ Association.

These three, while commenting recently on the state of the Barbados economy, said based on what they were seeing in terms of investments and expressions of interest in credit in the bank sector, Barbados was experiencing the first signs of recovery, but that this would only really be visible from sometime in 2016.

It would also depend on happenings outside of Barbados’ control, including the performance of key tourism and investment markets including the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

Challenges remained

Then there are institutions like the International Monetary Fund, Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean that have also pointing to positives, while making it clear that challenges related to the fiscal deficit, debt, and economic growth remained, not only for Barbados but the region collectively.

Based on the statements, including those mentioned above, of the various parties in and outside of Barbados, and taking the actual economic and financial statistics in to account, one can reasonably conclude that Barbados is still not past the worst, although there are signs, including an improved tourism performance and developments in the renewable energy sector, that are encouraging but need to be sustained.

There is also the familiar bugbear of inadequate and untimely implementation of programmes and ideas, as well as the remaining concern about slow business facilitation, leading to the increased uncompetitiveness of the economy.

The consensus seems to be that progress has been made, but more needs to be done, which will take time and dedication.


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