While economic growth is slowly returning to Barbados, the country’s economy is not expected to develop significantly this year.
“It’s no secret we have been having challenging times in the last seven to eight years,” said Barbados’ opposition leader, Mia Mottley, while in the Greater Toronto Area recently for the Harrison and Queen’s College Alumni Association Ontario chapter annual spring fling fundraiser in Thornhill. “We have not come out of the economic doldrums so to speak. We have a smaller economy that we had eight or nine years ago and there is a point at which you will start to measure negligible growth because you have gotten so low down. But it doesn’t carry you back to where you need to be. Part of the difficulty is that the state of affairs with our households and businesses as well as the conditions of the government’s fiscal circumstances is very challenging at this point in time and we have to stay the course to be able to ensure that we can regain an investment footing in the medium term, that we can create the platform for growth across each and every sector and, more importantly, for ordinary people.”
Speaking last month at the third CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum in Montego Bay, Mottley said Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean require a development vision that will guide export growth and economic enrichment and put citizens at the centre of the development process in a more direct manner.
“That’s what we need to be able to focus and ensure that what we do as governments and as societies,” she said. “We have gone through all kinds of experiments over the last 50 years (spanning) industrialization, import substitution, opportunities that balance the desire to bring people out of poverty but constrained by old structures of production and in more recent times the new neo-liberal vision that has rendered us susceptible to the dilution of local vision and empowerment enfranchisement through foreign capital and foreign investment being the primary mechanism through which production is obtained in our countries.
“At the end of the day, we are really trying to empower our people to allow them to be the best that they can be and that can only happen if we recognize that it’s not about what GDP (Gross Domestic Product) that we have amassed, but about also the social indicators that speak to quality of life. And, therefore things such as education, empowerment of people in terms of the ownership opportunities within the private sector matter. It’s not just about the attraction of foreign capital alone. It’s about export of our own capital and people in terms of services in a global village, carrying the values of the region that have been instilled in us and have made us a resilient people and seeing how we can bring along more people to enjoy a quality of life that’s appropriate.”
Barbados plans to remove Queen Elizabeth II as the titular head of state and replace the monarch with a ceremonial president from the Caribbean island.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said the plan is to make Barbados a republic by November 2016 when the country’s celebrates its 50th independence anniversary.
Barbados needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament to authorize the constitutional change. Stuart’s government currently has that majority in the Senate, but not in the lower house.
A 1986 graduate of the London School of Economics & Political Science, Mottley said she is holding off with her views on the matter.
“I am not going to speak on that because I have not spoken to that at home yet,” was all she would say on this issue. “When the time comes, I will speak to it.”
Barbados’s first female attorney general, Mottley said her time at Queen’s College prepared her for life after school.
“Like most secondary schools, they have the capacity to help mould the values and outlook on life,” said the former Barbados cabinet minister and deputy prime minister. “Queen’s College was no different largely because of the headmistress and the teachers who guided us through the process. I had a headmistress who reinforced what my parents instilled in me which is that you could do anything and be anything you wanted to be if you prepared yourself appropriately. It was also not only about the academics but the type of person you are and the type of things you do to live with people and share fellowships.”