Prime Minister Freundel Stuart this afternoon told Barbadians he was sorry for not being able to provide more employment for them, especially young people, during his Government’s term in office.
On the eve a full-fledged general election campaign, Stuart conceded that his single regret was that his DLP administration had not been able to fulfill all its commitments, because it came to power at a time, when the world was about to embark on its most serious downturn in 100 years.
Addressing a full house of business leaders at the first monthly luncheon for the year of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Hilton Barbados, the Prime Minister lamented that “all of our great expectations of meeting a lot of the commitments we had at the start of the term, were hobbled as a result of the constraints imposed by this still continuing economic downturn”.
“We had to walk by sight rather than by faith, because the resources available to us, have always been very limited and we’ve had to husband our resources with consummate care,” he added.
“I would hope that when there is another term that things would have so eased up that we would be able to show the people of Barbados the real mettle of our pasture… We’ve done quite, quite well, unbelievably well, in very stringent circumstances.”
However, the Prime Minister promised the island that “the best is yet to come”.
He argued that that “best” would come when the Government was able to spend a little more and be a lot less cautious than it had been in meeting the expectations of the people of Barbados.
“I personally have felt saddened that as a result of this economic downturn, we’ve not been able to make that dent in the unemployment problem that we would have wanted to make.
“I think it is a source of painful and acute frustration for a significant number of young people who leave school or leave the university or leave the Community College looking forward to being absorbed into the workforce and being frustrated because of the constraints under which we have had to operate,” he lamented.
This, the Government leader conceded, was a source of great distress for him, adding that he hoped the country could overcome this hurdle if re-elected to run the island for another five years.
“The first term has not been easy for us,” Stuart admitted.
He said he hoped, if given power once more, that the DLP would not have to govern under the type of constrained circumstance as during the past five years. He reported though that despite the difficult challenges faced by his Cabinet ministers, they had “shone brightly”.
The Prime Minister also unveiled what he described as a sketch of the party’s plans to restore economic growth to Barbados, if re-elected to office at the polls on February 21.
“Our plans and expectations for growth are based on four underpinnigs,” he said.
These include, the promotion of foreign exchange earning and saving sectors much more vigorously, while increasing economic capacity to achieve higher and more balanced growth and continued, but prudent spending by Government in the domestic economy.
Stuart revealed that the others were the upgrading and expanding infrastructure, carrying out the necessary restructuring across various sectors and maintaining the social safety net and other essential investments in the island’s social capital.
In the area of tourism, a returned DLP would increase promotion in each of the country’s source markets.
“We will sponsor increased airlift, more especially from Western Canada and the USA, and the Scandinavian countries; and we will seek to achieve more airlift with Latin America through inaugurating direct air links with Panama,” the Prime Minister promised.
He also pledged support for several major construction projects in the tourism sector by offering incentives through the Tourism Development Act. Stuart said, too, that these would include the revitalised Four Seasons project, further expansion of the Crane Beach Resort, rebuilding and expanding of Almond Beach Village, Beachlands, Regency, continuation of Port Ferdinand and rebuilding of Sam Lord’s Castle.
A new DLP Government also has plans to upgrade the international business and financial services sector, promote Barbados as a place to invest, offer speedier responses to foreign investors wanting to do business here, and carry out infrastructural development. (EJ)†