EDITORIAL: Weathering the storm
TWO days ago Barbados celebrated its 53rd anniversary of Independence in grand style with the traditional Independence Day parade at Kensington Oval and other signature events to mark this milestone. At 53, Barbados has indeed weathered the storm, emerging in the words of the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI) as one of the world’s leading developing countries.
Even as this yardstick continues to showcase Barbados in a very positive light, we are quite aware that it was not an easy path getting to this stage and that it won’t be a bed of roses to maintain that trend in the future.
When it is considered that with Barbados being positioned even to this day above some of the more prosperous and developed advanced economies, it demonstrates how much we in this 166-square mile island have been able to achieve without the type of resources those countries boast.
This attests to the fact that with slender resources, prudent economic management down through the years and the hard work of our people, Barbados has been able to achieve a lot with less.
Over the course of those 53 years, Barbados has built up an impressive programme of socio-economic indicators that reflect the benefits and standard of living of citizens. Education, health, improved life expectancy, per capita GDP, relatively stable economic growth based on a more diversified economy compared to what was there on November 30, 1966, when the British Union Jack was lowered and replaced with the Barbados National Flag, make up a lot of the evidence that showcases our advancement. These therefore represent some of the factors which the United Nations uses in its HDI Report to portray the strides that Barbados has made.
While we make note of these indicators, it is important not to forget that the high per capita income has somehow sent the wrong signal to the global community that a well-off Barbados can no longer qualify for soft loans from international agencies like the World Bank. That in a sense ushered in a period of graduation. This is very similar to what other states in the Caribbean, notably Trinidad and Tobago, and The Bahamas, among others, have had to face up to as they seek out concessional financing to boost their economies. So unfortunately, small states which have sought to lift themselves up through their hard work, are being penalised by the international community and prevented from accessing concessionary financing to meet the requirements of their nationals and economy.
However, while there have been positives, Barbados has had its fair share of setbacks with recessions and economic slowdowns, which led to the island having to seek an accommodation from the International Monetary Fund. These took place in 1977, 1981/1982, 1991/1993, and more recently 2018, for which there is an ongoing Fund programme. It must be remembered that Barbados does business with the rest of the world and being a very small open economy, just as several others around the Caribbean region, economic downturns in Barbados’ trading partners will naturally have severe implications for this island.
As is the case, the present Government has in place a programme to bring Barbados out of the present economic turbulence, and which promises to correct our economic shortcomings.