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High score for labour freedom

Tony Best

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At a time when Barbadians ponder the potential impact of a threatened nationwide strike, their country is being cited for its high level of labour freedom.
The praise was contained in the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom which gave labour freedom in Barbados a score of 84.4 out of a possible 100, one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
Buoyed by low levels of corruption and high marks for business and labour freedoms, Barbados remained among the leaders in the Caribbean and Latin America when it came to global economic freedom.
Barbados was ranked 39th out of 185 countries and territories surveyed by the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank in Washington, and the Wall Street Journal.
It was behind St Lucia, 32nd, and The Bahamas, 35th, in the English, French and Spanish Caribbean.
It was ranked sixth out of 29 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
The experts who compiled the 2013 index placed Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Mauritius, Denmark and the United States at the top of the list but ranked Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Eritrea, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea at the bottom.
In evaluating the countries for their performance in such areas as the rule of law, regulatory efficiency, open markets and government involvement in the economy, the authors of the index gave Barbados an overall score of 69.3, a slight improvement over last year.
They based their decision on a “significant drop in business and monetary freedoms” in the past 12 months which were “largely offset by improvements in fiscal freedom, the management of government spending and labour freedoms. Its overall score remained well above the global and regional averages.
“With strong foundations of economic freedom supported by relatively low levels of corruption and an efficiency judiciary, the Barbados Government’s economic policies have attracted international attention,” the experts wrote.
 But they were quick to point to increased Government spending in recent years, “expanding the government’s reach and influence in the economy”, and complained about “chronic fiscal deficits” that had “expanded government debt to a level that now exceeds the island’s annual gross domestic product”
They said expansionary government stimulus spending “has had little impact on high unemployment, but inflation has increased”.
The Barbados Workers’ Union and LIME are locked in an industrial dispute over the dismissal of more than 90 workers and the labour organization is threatening to call a nationwide strike.
In the assessment of Barbados, the Index stated that “hiring and dismissal regulations are not burdensome and the influence of unions is limited”.