Williams: Not business as usual
“It is time for all Barbadians to face up to the fact that the successes that we have enjoyed in the past are in danger of being eroded if we do not change the way we do business – in government, in the private sector, in the labour movement, and as a people.”
These are the strong words of Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) John Williams in his organisation’s response to the Central Bank’s “Review of Barbados’ Economic Performance for the First Nine Months of 2011” which showed a vulnerable fiscal position for Barbados.
Williams observed that the economic recession had gone on much longer than was expected with no clear indication of when it would end and opined that while Barbados could not change what is going on in the outside world, we could change what is within our control in Barbados.
Speaking on behalf of the umbrella organization for the major local private sector bodies he cautioned against the continuation of Government borrowing at current levels: “Over several years, Governments have been spending a lot more than the revenue they collect, and this has resulted in an extremely high national debt and a continuing annual shortfall that is making this situation worse. Although there has been some improvement in the deficit position it has largely been driven by increasing taxes rather than fundamental changes to how Government spends money.”
In making a case against more borrowing, the BPSA noted that national debt was $2.5 billion in 1995, By 2007 it had moved to $5.6 billion and in 2010 it reached $8.2 billion, which works out at a debt of $30,000 for each Barbadian.
The Barbados Private Sector Association believes that swift action is needed to avoid an external body or agency telling Barbados what to do, as has happened elsewhere.
“We do not believe that widespread layoffs, whether in the public or private sector is the answer; but the Government of Barbados cannot get away from immediately taking serious and likely unpopular decisions on reforming those ineffective and wasteful areas of public spending that plague us.” Williams added that Barbadians knew where money is being wasted and where service is unacceptable, as is evident from discourse on call-in programmes and public debate.
“We must also grow our economy” said the private sector leader noting that growth requires investor confidence and making business opportunities attractive as well as tackling problems quickly and with purpose.
“We do not subscribe to the view that investor confidence will evaporate if we discuss these matters in a forthright manner. Indeed we need greater transparency in our debate on important national issues.” said the BPSA Chair, observing that likely investors, both local and from abroad, were already aware of the existing situation – both the advantages and drawbacks of investing and doing business in Barbados. “We must emphasise the former but demonstrate that we are willing to act on, not just talk about, the latter.”
The leading businessman said that that the private sector will do its utmost to encourage new investment and business and that the BPSA stands ready to do its part with Government and the Congress of Staff Associations and Trade Unions within the Social Partnership or other specially constituted task force to deal with the current issues facing the economy.