Opposition leaders warns that the worse may be yet to come
Leader of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Mia Mottley has painted a dim picture of this country’s economy, saying that 2014 will go down in history as the most painful and traumatic for Barbadians.
And she is predicting that next year could be just as bad or even worse.
Addressing the final luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) for the year at the Hilton Barbados Resort today, Mottley said the only way to get Barbados back on track was to “de-Freundelize it”.
She called for more meaningful discussion on how to return the economy to sustainable growth, and said there was need for strong and decisive leadership as well as transparency – both of which she said were missing.
“So what must we do? Three things essentially. One, the Barbados Government must be able to unlock affordable access to capital in this country again. Two, we must apply a laser-like focus to restoring our economy to growth. Three, and this is perhaps the one that is least spoken on because you hear everybody committed to the first two, is that we must change how we govern ourselves and how we do things, how we relate to each other and who we involve in the equation,” declared Mottley.
Likening the country to a patient suffering from the painful Chikungunya virus, the BLP leader said after about four years of “debilitating conditions”, individuals and businesses continued to struggle, experienced distress, depleted savings, and their resilience and confidence “and now, regrettably, even our courage” were disappearing.
“This year shall live in infamy as one of the most painful and traumatic years that Barbadians have had to endure since Independence, and regrettably 2015 promises to be not much different, if not worse,” she said.
Cautioning that social problems could deteriorate even further if an economic turnaround was not realized sooner rather than later, Mottley added: “This is not scare mongering but this is the reality [that] Barbados is beginning to see and it is only a matter of time before it spreads across the 166 square miles . . . This means there must be clear priorities after a national conversation and these priorities must be [filled] with focus and discipline. We have to examine all in our current business and economic life to see what needs to change. There can be no sacred cows and we must be determined to make those changes not just to speak to them.”
The Opposition Leader renewed her call for more engagement from the Freundel Stuart administration on issues of national importance.
“The truth is that we have to listen to the people of Barbados even more now because there is considerable anxiety and anguish . . . For us conversations are still important. We educate the citizens of Barbados and they expect us to talk with them about the issues that confront them daily. There is simply not enough wool on our sweet black belly sheep for the Government to pull it over the eyes of the people of this country,” said Mottley, while lauding the private sector and the trade unions for their role in helping to develop the island over the years.
“We believe that you do not deserve to be shouted at, threatened, lectured or indeed insulted, but be engaged as a key part to the solution . . . You know, as I do, that we have reached a juncture that is critical in this country’s affairs and for the first time we are truly in danger of losing much which we value as a people.”
The Opposition Leader said, however, that she was convinced Barbadians had what it took to return the island to a “21st century Barbados”.
She said the magnitude of transformation would require the input of Barbadians of every rank, sphere and colour.
Acknowledging that getting the economy back on track would not be an overnight process, Mottley said what was needed was for things to be done differently, better, smarter “and, above all else, with a new politics that allow us to do them together”.
If all that was done, she said, the economy could be turned around within two to three years.