Minister of Economic Affairs and Empowerment, Innovation, Trade, Industry and Commerce, Dr. David Estwick (FP)??

The economic outlook for Barbados may be bleak but Government has taken a number of steps to cushion the effect on the island’s critical sectors if the recession deepens.

Minister of Economic Affairs and Empowerment, Innovation, Trade, Industry and Commerce, Dr. David Estwick, outlined these initiatives while addressing a Barbados Workers’ Union Cooperative Credit Union Limited Retreat at the Grand Salle, Tom Adams Financial Centre, Bridgetown, last weekend.

Noting that Barbados had not escaped the vagaries of the worldwide economic meltdown, he said the Central Bank of Barbados’ recent review of the economy had predicted that domestic economic activity would continue to decline for the rest of the year and into 2010.

This, according to the Economic Affairs Minister, was evidenced by job losses; declines in potential investments; closure of businesses; increasing costs of business transactions; and downturns in the island’s tourism sector.

Given this situation, he described the financial outlook as fickle. "As a result of these developments, the economic outlook for Barbados remains very volatile.?? There is the expectation that activity in our major industries, particularly tourism, will further decline, thus negatively impacting overall employment, and even eroding some of the welfare gains made over the past two decades.

"So, these unfavourable economic scenarios remain a major concern of the Government of Barbados, and I believe, that the same can also be said for the credit union movement," Dr. Estwick declared.

In light of the uncertain economic outlook, the Minister said government had initiated A Short and Medium Term Action Plan formulated by a Special Working Group on the Economy, to outline a "road map for the development and implementation of several policy initiatives to stabilise the economy".

Among the proposals to be undertaken by government are measures to improve the level of competitiveness and to maximise the opportunities which may emerge from the crisis; the provision of resources to assist the productive sectors in riding out the current period; and the allocation of a fiscal stimulus to sustain economic activity and safeguard jobs.??

Dr. Estwick also stated that government had negotiated a number of loans, including a $300 million advance from Trinidad and Tobago, in the event of a deeper economic crisis.

He further explained that Government had also secured a US$120 million loan from Scotia Bank and Trust, and has the option of obtaining another US$150 million from the World Bank, if necessary.

In addition, the Economic Affairs Minister said Government could also draw down from the Inter-American Development Bank’s sustainable liquidity programme.

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