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Recovery talks

PM Stuart calls for discussion to formulate home-grown plan

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has put Government’s players in the Social Partnership on notice.

He wants members of the private sector and trade union movement to sit down with his administration for “useful and fertile discussion”, talks intended to come up with a home-grown economic recovery plan.

Stuart made the call this morning as the full Social Partnership sat down together for the first time in six months under his chairmanship at Hilton Barbados.

Flanked by some members of his Cabinet and speaking to senior members of corporate Barbados and the labour movement, the Prime Minister said he expected a solution for the island’s “protracted” economic difficulties to emerge from today’s talks and a national economic consultation scheduled for June 28.

Although the island’s problems were largely the result of external issues, Barbados could not afford to look for a foreign solution, he told them.

“This meeting of the full Social Partnership precedes another meeting which is on our agenda, that is a national consultation on the economy, which is suppose to take place on Friday the 28 of June,” he said.

“I should therefore like you to be applying your minds to that upcoming event; prepare yourselves so that we can have a useful and fertile discussion on matters economic when that time comes around.

“But we couldn’t of course have this meeting today without inviting, as is usual, the Central Bank to come and do a presentation so that we have a status report on where we are economically and of course what are the avenues for possible solution to some of our more urgent challenges.”

Stuart said no one in Barbados knew when the current hard times would end, but said in the interim “we certainly cannot fold our arms despairingly and just decide to wait it out, we have to continue to battle our challenges and to try to come up with solutions to our problems”.

“The early 1990s in which the Social Partnership was conceived challenged people’s innovative instincts, their initiatives, their self reliance and I suspect that we have to challenge those same instincts again because, as we have had to acknowledge here in Barbados over and over again, nobody anywhere else in the world owes us a living, but we have a duty to live and to survive on our little rock here as best we can,” he stated.

“And we cannot in one breath boast of how literate a country we have and how high our education standards are and when we are faced with daunting challenges, such as those with which we are dealing now, we cannot press into service that same education of which we so glibly boast to come up with the right solutions to our problems.

“So it’s not going to be enough for us to continue to describe what is happening around us — that doesn’t call for a lot of intelligence. What requires the use of our intelligence is trying to get to the bottom of our problems and trying to come up with solutions that will make life in Barbados better for our households, for our businesses and of course for the government that has to provide a wide range of services for the population,” he added.

Stuart also told participants at the tripartite meeting he hoped today’s talks would “have that kind of discussion and that after this meeting we will be all better positioned to go back to our respective bailiwicks and to confront some of the challenges which we face”.

“What makes our situation different is that we are not responsible for a lot of the challenges we face, these have been begotten in distant climes, but because of the structure of … our economic arrangements we feel the full effect of mistakes and bad decisions make elsewhere,” he noted.

“And in that context of course we have had to become a little more inward looking and to try to determine how we can maximise and optimise the use of those resources, human and non human, which are available to us as we confront these challenges,” Stuart added, noting that the Social Partnership was best placed to lead this action based on its 20 year track record. (SC)

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