Government is committed to pursuing a strategy that will systematically reduce the fiscal deficit, and foster economic growth and innovation.

This assurance came today from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he addressed the opening ceremony of a one-day National Private/Public Sector Consultation on the Economy at the Hilton Barbados.

Mr. Stuart pledged that Government would work “hand in hand with the leadership in industry, labour and civil society, to create an enabling environment that re-energises the engines of growth and innovation” in the economy, and thus enhance the quality of life of Barbadians.

However, he warned that this country needed to be more competitive, more productive and committed to a much higher quality of service, stressing that this could not be achieved overnight, but would require that all concerned worked “assiduously to achieve personal and national goals”.

The Prime Minister told the gathering of senior executives in the private and public sectors that: “We must eschew drifting into a community more concerned with highlighting what is wrong than with taking the steps necessary to put things right…Let us aim for creativity, not commonplaces; let us aim for innovation, not limitation. This is not a time for division and hollow posturing. If we work together, we will achieve and succeed together.”

Recounting a number of economic realities that confronted the country, the Prime Minister stated that real economic growth had in fact “continued to be at worst elusive and at best anaemic”.?? He noted that Government revenues had been challenged as a result of the economic decline, as this had impacted on the earning and spending capacities of all sectors.

He pointed out that although revenues had been falling, the demand for Government to maintain the social safety net had been heightened. “Government has not been able to ignore these demands because that social safety net is, in large measure, responsible for the relative peace and stability which we enjoy and which has made Barbados continuingly attractive to foreign investors and visitors,” he noted.

It was the combination of these factors, Mr. Stuart said, that has led to a fiscal deficit that was higher than the Government would have liked it to be, even though it was largely incurred in the interest of social and economic stability.

He added: “As a result, Government debt has risen sharply both in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP. This has meant higher debt service expenditure both in absolute terms and as a percentage of declining government revenues. Government has been able to hold other expenditure reasonably stable over the last five years, and has tried as far as possible to restrict increase in expenditure.”

The national consultation also involved representatives of the Barbados Workers’ Union, the Barbados Private Sector Association, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Central Bank of Barbados.

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