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ICAB projects lower growth than govt for next year

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) has called on Government to move with urgency to address the island’s economic woes and to improve its governance structures.

ICAB President Roger Arthur said many of its members felt the economy would not achieve the targeted growth of two per cent by next year, as projected by the Government.

In fact, they are anticipating that the situation would be “worse in six months’ time” if urgent steps are not taken to address a number of issues, including boosting investor confidence, achieving greater efficiency in the legal system and increased productivity in the public sector, as well as reform, especially in state enterprises.

Arthur told reporters at a media conference today that an ongoing Economic Policy Confidence Survey among its 800-plus members showed that they were generally dissatisfied with the handling of the economy.

Noting that 10 per cent of members had so far completed the survey, he said one of the main aims was to gauge the level of confidence in the economy. “The numbers suggest that about 90 per cent of our members are not happy with how things are being done at the moment.

“The level of urgency is one of the key factors that certainly has caught their attention. There are some key issues in key areas that need to be addressed and we would like to see greater emphasis placed in those areas, especially as we speak to the whole question of business facilitation,” he said, stressing that the 10 per cent of members was “a good measure”.

“Sixty two [per cent] of the respondents think that the economy will be worse in six months’ time, while 32 per cent believe that it will neither be better nor worse. So it is generally leaning towards a level of uncertainty of the future of the economy,” Arthur said.

“Ninety four per cent of the respondents believe that companies are letting people go and reducing the workforce based on what they know or have seen. That is a worrying trend because if growth is to return to the economy then we need to have employment,” he added.

The ICAB president said when it came to capital investment about 94 per cent of the respondents reported a deferral or reduction in the scale of capital projects, which, he said, needed to be addressed since investments help to create jobs and other benefits.

Adding that there were very few ways to reduce expenditure, Arthur suggested that transfers and subsidies to statutory boards be “continuously assessed to determine if those funds are being applied in a productive way”.

Meanwhile, ICAB’s vice president Andrew Brathwaite and immediate past president David Simpson suggested that having stronger governance structures would help to bring about the type of reform and changes that were needed in Government.

Brathwaite suggested that Government should look more closely at appointments to statutory boards to ensure those individuals were experienced, qualified and possessed the necessary skills “in order to properly discharge their responsibilities”.

Brathwaite said strong financial management and internal controls, as well as timely and quality financial reporting were needed to help with the management and control of expenditure.

“We are not just talking about governance at the level of Cabinet or Prime Minister’s office or Parliament, but at the management and board level, who actually have ultimate responsibility for our statutory bodies and ministries,” added Simpson.

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