‘Focus more’ on growth
It will take some time before Barbadians start pumping money into the local economy, helping Barbados to recover through the controversial Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
As a result Government’s plans for economic growth need to be ramped up.
That’s the feeling of Jeremy Stephen, a former president of the Barbados Economic Society.
Stephen made the assertion on Friday after a presentation to the Barbados Association of Office Professionals, where he advised them on how to be innovators in the new economic paradigm.
“The growth strategy so far has been about re-tooling people and looking at organic growth, but I think that’s only part of the solution. One of the positive things that happened is the change of the corporate tax rates, which we could use to market for foreign direct investment,” said Stephen.
He noted it was important to look deeper at the country’s situation even though the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had recently given the Mia Mottley administration a passing grade for reaching the required benchmarks in the first three months of the BERT programme.
Stephen said it was clear Government’s first focus was economic stabilisation, and for that reason, a lot of attention had yet to be paid to economic growth.
“Any sustainable Barbados is one that exports more than it imports, or at least similarly to what it imports or we will be back here again eventually. The way to kick-start growth is by importing skills and technology. If we can learn from the best and complete globally, then it’s all good.”
He believes any promotion of economic growth should start from such a context. “If we can promote utilisation of new tech, of new skills, continually upgrading every five years, then we could have a sustainable growth plan.”
Stephen said BERT still has its doubters.
“The mindset of people right now, is that they haven’t bought in fully. The academics and people at the top have bought into that side of Government, while recognising some issues that would ensure it takes a longer time to recover. On paper we can recover faster. Ross University is one example of how you can recover, by foreign direct investment, but it does take some time before locals will want to invest like how they did before.”
According to Stephen, Government’s actions of retrenchment could have also had an effect on the workforce, some of who might not work as effectively as before, while wondering if they could be the next to go on the breadline. “They could actually work against their own interests by not being productive,” he suggested.
Stephen believes the IMF’s positive assessment may have been based on a glass half-full, more than glass half-empty approach.
“I think it was a fair assessment, based on what the IMF is. The IMF is not necessarily an organisation that would rate social changes, but moreso Government’s finances,” he said about the passing grade.
“While they have graded well in terms of consolidating certain State Owned Enterprises, the social dislocation shows we have a longer time in recovery mode, and what the IMF is expecting,” he added.
Members of the Barbados Association of Office Professionals attending Friday’s session.
Jeremy Stephen, a former president of the Barbados Economic Society.
(Pictures by Reco Moore.)