Many Barbadians may be unaware of the important role which the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Research and Planning Unit plays in the monitoring of economic activity and its impact on the social landscape of Barbados.

The unit, established in the mid-1990s, is headed by Director, Patrick McCaskie. It has a dual role – producing strategic documents for Government, and the compilation of policy papers. The unit is also responsible for preparing briefs and speeches as requested.

The department is staffed by 10 economists who among other things, were responsible for preparing working papers on various topics of national importance.

In explaining the work of the organisation, Acting Director of the Unit, Derek Gibbs said: "The work of the Unit is split into two – It is responsible for planning, in terms of producing certain strategic documents for Government, such as medium term and long-term National Strategic Plans and we also have the responsibility for preparing internal strategic plans.??

"Another segment of the Ministry’s work speaks to research, where we monitor certain economic and sectoral activity."

Apart from the Unit’s role of preparing National Strategic Plans, Mr. Gibbs mentioned the annual Barbados Economic and Social Report and the Journal of Public Sector Policy Analysis, as two publications that keep the public abreast of economic and social changes across Barbados.

In addition, the Acting Director identified the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB’s) Competitiveness Project and Indices of Leading Indicators, as two key initiatives to be pursued by the Department during the year.

"This [Competitiveness Project] is going to be a wide-ranging venture that would involve the input from other Ministries.?? This national project will be executed under the aegis of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.?? The Unit is also discussing with a consultant the possibility of doing what we call Indices of Leading Indicators, which we hope to complete sometime this year.?? When finalised, the Indices would be an additional tool for economic management," Mr. Gibbs added.

Meanwhile, Acting Chief Economist, Ronnie Griffith, also disclosed that the Journal of Public Sector Policy Analysis, which was created to give public officers a medium to hone those economics skills which they had acquired at the University of the West Indies and elsewhere, was now circulated internationally via an overseas-based website.

He noted: "We have a license agreement with EBSCO Publishing Inc., where persons can go on the website and tap into any paper contained in the journal. The Government would then get royalties every time the papers were accessed online."

Mr. Griffith also said the Research and Plannning Unit had received requests from other embassies to include the publications in their libraries and plans.?? If everything goes according to plan, he said the journal would also be offered for sale in bookstores across the island.

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