In delivering the closing address at a one-day national private/public sector consultation on the economy on Jun. 27, Stuart said the most easterly of Caribbean countries was facing “serious problems of debt and deficit.”
He stressed that if the present challenges were to be overcome, then the cooperation of all Barbadians, in what he termed “this mighty effort,” would be required, according to a Barbados Government statement issued in New York.
“The governor of the Central Bank was very clear that we have to make a very serious adjustment if we are to eschew the prospect of economic damage being done to Barbados,” Stuart said.
“He contends that we need to do about a 4.4 [per cent] adjustment and that 4.4 adjustment translates into about US$400 million in the short-term,” Stuart added.
“Now short and sharp interventions can lead to short and sharp responses and that is a fact which we must bear in mind,” he continued. “I think, therefore, that we have to continue the dialogue. But the reality is that we have problems.”
The Barbadian leader said these problems are “not problems of a nature, quality and kind that we can claim to be new.
“We’ve had these problems before,” he said. “What we’re dealing with here is the gravity of the problem.”
Stuart said the meeting was part of an important consultative process so that decisions could be made to save the economy.
“We have heard interventions that have left me in no doubt that people understand where we are and that we’re going to have to take some strong corrective actions, bearing in mind always that there are vulnerable elements in the society whose protection depends on us as well,” he said.
The Barbadian leader called for creativity, perspective and innovation, rather than imitation, declaring that his administration had to make decisions while the going was “good”.
“The worst thing you can do is waste a recession,” he said. “The truth is that it is even more criminal to waste a period of economic buoyancy.”
Expressing confidence that the country would surmount the present difficulties, Stuart warned that once buoyancy returned to the economy, ‘some serious structural changes” must take place in Barbados.
He promised that government would continue its consultative program, as broadly and as widely as possible “while there was time to do so, and while circumstances allowed”, so that a national consensus on the way forward could be crystallized and the necessary buy-in garnered for the sacrifices that would have to be made in the foreseeable future.