Prime Minister David Thompson (right), in converstion with President of the Carribean Development Bank,??Dr. Compton Bourne, at the conference.??

As part of efforts aimed at improving and stimulating economic development in Barbados, government intends to push hard to implement an alternative energy programme over the next two to three years.

Word of this came today from Prime Minister David Thompson, as he delivered an address to open a conference on Policies and Strategies to Face the Global Economic Downturn: The Way Forward for the Caribbean" at the Hilton Hotel.

The meeting was sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Caribbean Development Bank, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department for International Development.

The Prime Minister said that government intended to intensify its energy conservation programme by increasing public awareness, tax means and refitting programmes in buildings and factories.

Mr. Thompson added: "Efforts will also begin for promoting heavy investment by the private sector in producing solar power for feeding into the national grid, and the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited has already asked the Fair Trading Commission to set a tariff for such power."

He gave the assurance that such a programme of activity in the area of energy conservation and alternative energy would undoubtedly reduce Barbados’ vulnerability to the price and supply of fossil fuels and save foreign exchange. Furthermore, he stressed such an initiative would also lead to increased employment.

Concerning ways of ensuring fiscal prudence, Mr. Thompson explained: "Already, we have started to prune unnecessary expenditure out of our spending programme and to re-examine spending priorities to ensure that… we stay within planned expenditure."

The Prime Minister added that this expenditure management would also cover improved procurement practices to reduce costs. He indicated that the programme to prepare Barbados for this had already started, with a loan being obtained from the IDB.??

"We have also started to examine our debt management strategy and have asked for help in this area from the World Bank, so we can reduce some of [the] costs of borrowing by Central Government, as well as by government corporations, and statutory corporations," Mr. Thompson said.??

"Work is also ongoing again, with assistance from the IDB, to improve our revenue collection services, so that we can improve the efficiency of collections and increase the revenue yield from the existing tax and revenue structure.??

"We expect that the expenditure management and the revenue enhancement programmes will bear early results and help us to rein back in our fiscal deficit over the next few years," the Prime Minister opined.

The two-day conference was organised to identify the policies and strategies needed to support the economic transformation of the Caribbean region. It was also designed to help them identify the interventions needed to face the financial crisis in the short term, and to build an enabling environment to strengthen private sector development.

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