Prime Minister David Thompson as he addressed the opening ceremony of a conference on "Policies and Strategies to face the Global Downturn: The Way Forward in the Caribbean" at the Hilton Hotel.

The Barbados Government is moving assiduously to tackle the economic problems with which this country is faced.

This assertion was made today, by Prime Minister David Thompson at the opening of a two-day conference at the Hilton Hotel on "Policies and Strategies to face the Global Economic Downturn: The Way Forward for the Caribbean".

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

The Prime Minister told the gathering of public and private sector officials that "significant attention will be placed "on improving the efficiency of the services needed by the international business sector and on further strengthening the regulation and supervision of the entire financial sector of the country".??

Mr. Thompson noted that these efforts would be geared at increasing Barbados’ foreign exchange earnings, as well as increasing employment.

In addition, the Prime Minister stated that government would be "intensifying "our negotiation of double taxation treaties in Latin and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe, so that our network of double taxation treaties becomes very much more valuable to potential investors."??

Furthermore, an intensified housing programme was in the planning stages and some government lands were being earmarked for major tourism improvements which would start in about two years.??

Other initiatives, Mr. Thompson explained, would involve the expansion of port facilities to accommodate a larger cruise ship programme "without impairing the efficiency of cargo operations".??

"Luckily for us, much of the infrastructural work to be done is of the sort that can bear charges to users and so can be constructed through Public-Private-Partnerships without requiring resources from Central Government,"he underlined.??

However, of coastal infrastructure, would be facilitated through government borrowing from the IDB and the CDB.??

The Prime Minister revealed that this infrastructure plan would not only provide increased capacity for the country in both the short and medium term, but would also increase employment immediately, and provide some buoyancy in the growth of the economy.??

However, he suggested that these measures "will not significantly affect our fiscal deficit or our debt burden". Rather, Mr. Thompson affirmed that the method of financing "should provide us with sufficient foreign exchange to keep our international reserves at an adequate level".

Bearing in mind the importance of the tourism sector to economic development, the Prime Minister announced his intention "to ramp up tourism marketing "to make sure that we benefit as much as possible from the rebound in the developed markets and that we begin further diversification of our tourism source markets".??

"Further, we are seeking to provide loan and equity funding to be accessed by our hotels for operations, refurbishment and upgrade during the next couple of years," he revealed.

The Prime Minister conceded that it would take "a little time" for the policies to be implemented and to bear fruit. ??However, he expressed confidence that government’s labour would not be in vain.

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