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‘Don’t panic’

Economy not hopeless, says Arthur

Don’t write off the Barbados economy just yet.

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur said that while the island might be facing a “crisis of confidence” at this stage, the economic situation remained manageable.

“We still have strong residual institutional and other resources upon which to call; but I urge the country not to play with this, because if a country goes into decline for a period of five years or more, very often it takes a generation to pull it back out,” he cautioned.

Arthur, who lived in Jamaica in the 1970s, noted that the country went into decline between 1974 and 1979 because of similar issues with the deficit and it was “very, very difficult to pull it back out”.

He further noted that at the point of independence, Guyana was more developed than Singapore.

However, he warned the Freundel Stuart Government that “if you fool around with an economy for a while, it could become a generational problem”.

“Our situation is not yet hopeless, but believe me, economic things, like most other things in nature, have a way of feeding upon themselves, and if you go into decline and there is nothing to stop the decline, it becomes cumulative,” he said.

Stressing that Barbados had not yet reached the “point of no return”, he said “there is a sense in which the private sector and the households will do things in their own defence, despite what the Government is doing, in order to survive and to prosper, because the people of Barbados want the country to succeed”.

However, he also insisted that “what is happening now with the economy, is not happy”.

The former Minister of Finance said he was not prepared to anticipate what the current economic spokesman Chris Sinckler would be coming with in this year’s Budget, but he warned the Government that it needed to manage a number of economic forces.

“Very often the things that you do to deal with the fiscal situation affect the productive sectors and it has unintended effects.

“The Government has not yet, in my view, incapsulated what needs to be done all together harmoniously in one place to fix the fiscal situation, the problem of falling production, lack of growth, etcetera, as one undertaking.

To just keep dealing with the fiscal situation alone quite frankly is not getting the job done and I’m anxious to speak in the Budget, from my new perch as an Independent member, about it,” Arthur said.

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