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New Year, new challenges

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

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BY NOW THE parties have subsided. Barbadians, like their counterparts around the globe, would have successfully “rung” out 2010, gleefully so, in anticipation of a brighter and better 2011.
But vuvuzelas, hangovers and gimmicks aside, the dawning of a new year should signal sober reflection, as well as a spirit of renewal in us all.
This is not to say that there won’t be some measure of trepidation.
One of the cold, hard facts we must face up to as individuals and a nation is that uncertainty, which largely characterized 2010, forms part of the baggage that we have brought over into 2011.Economically, the indicators are all there of a building, negative headwind in the international economy.
In fact, some analysts say despite bullish sentiment currently in ascendance in the stock markets, it is clear that the world is in for a turbulent time this year.
In Europe, the warning signs are particularly visible in places such as Greece, Ireland and now Portugal that are facing serious economic woes, which are putting great pressure on the European financial system.In the United States, economists appear much more optimistic.
The latest forecast published in the Washington Post suggests there are many risks that could undermine the recovery and it could take years of solid growth to get the United States out of its deep economic hole.
Nonetheless, the newspaper says signposts for the economy are generally pointing up, as illustrated by a pace of growth that accelerated in the final months of 2010.
Among the reasons for this optimism: A wave of government efforts designed to boost growth, including a payroll tax cut beginning January 1 and the delayed benefits of a massive Federal Reserve action announced November 3. The plan is to pump US$600 billion into the financial system and is designed to stimulate the economy in large part by lowering mortgage and other interest rates.But there is no such plan at the domestic level, where the full impact of the new policies outlined in last November’s national Budget will soon be felt.
Both at the individual and group level, therefore, it will be necessary to take stock of our expenditure. Some companies are already in restructuring mode as they prepare to face the unknown. It goes without saying that now is definitely not the time for engaging in reckless spending and excesses. In fact, while our pockets recover from any holiday indulgence, let’s take a hard look at what we are doing, how we are doing it and make efficiency and effectiveness our watchwords.
The challenge of 2011 is not for us to hold on to things simply for tradition’s sake but to make adjustments, build on our past successes and grab hold of the available opportunities. It could make all the difference in the midst of trying times.