Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (2nd from left), is pictured being greeted by representatives of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation at their 51st Annual General Meeting and luncheon held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (From left to right)??President Ian Gooding-Edghill, 2nd Vice President Dawn Jemmott-Lowe and 1st Vice President Wayne Yearwood. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Now is the time for all citizens and businesses to be recommitted to the sustainable development of Barbados, "as a just and thriving society".

This was emphasised today by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he delivered the feature address at the 51st Annual General Meeting and Luncheon of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill.

Mr. Stuart said if this country was to function as "a well-oiled, appropriately and highly competitive economy", employers had to find ways of creating wealth and distributing it fairly "in order to satisfy the needs of our people."

He added that figures for 2010 had shown the economy had stopped contracting and there was evidence of modest advancement, reinforced by a 2.8 per cent growth in the first three months of this fiscal year.

Mr. Stuart added that other indices, such as the provision of enough foreign exchange to cover 20 weeks of imports, the slender reduction in unemployment to 10.5 per cent, and the slight improvement in the fiscal deficit by $90 million, offered "a glimmer of hope for the country’s continued performance." Added to this, he disclosed that Government had pledged both to guarantee a $50 million loan to the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation and to allocate $1.5 million to Fund Access to facilitate small business development.

The Prime Minister stated that the abolition of the environmental levy on imports, the reduction of fees paid by private transport operators, and those requiring retail liquor licences, as well as the reduction in water rates for registered farmers, were all measures that were intended to assist the private sector.

Mr. Stuart emphasised that his government would continue its policy "of maintaining a reliable, social safety net", while at the same time supporting employers and reaching out to those "who have the courage and foresight to sow the seeds that would lead to meaningful and durable recovery."

The Prime Minister thanked the private sector, including the BEC, for "holding strain during the past three years and collaborating with all the stakeholders to keep industrial strife in Barbados to an absolute minimum."

He also commended the private sector for creatively using measures to maintain employment for Barbadians. "In the current prolonged recession, you have found and used innovative ways of maintaining employment levels, despite declining profits, serious cash flow challenges and sometimes actual losses," he noted.

Mr. Stuart thanked entrepreneurs for "using the unique mechanism of the Social Partnership" to reach consensus with the Barbados Workers’ Union, thus enabling agreement on six collective labour settlements and other wage issues. "It is to be lauded that there were no reported work stoppages in the private sector during the past year, while there was but one in the public sector," he added.

The Prime Minister affirmed that Government would continue its strategy of supporting existing businesses, injecting certain stimuli to aid survival and expansion, and encouraging new business ventures.


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