The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has described as “very heartening” the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, even as the region’s premier financial institution acknowledges that it is too early give analysis of the initiative undertaken by the Mia Mottley government to revive an ailing economy.
“Our assessment of the BERT programme, it is still early days, but the progress made thus far is very heartening,” said the CDB’s Director of Economics, Dr Justin Ram.
Ram, speaking to reporters Thursday at the CDB’s annual news conference on the performance of Caribbean economies, said that while it was critical that the Barbados government, which came to office in May last year, maintain its targets, it should also focus on improving the ease of doing business and reduce joblessness among young people.
“Our assessment of the BERT programme, it is still early days, but the progress made thus far is very heartening,” Ram said as he later described as “very good” the government’s significant reduction in the ratio of debt to gross domestic product (GDP) from 170 per cent to 127 per cent.
“There is still some more that has to be done with respect to fiscal consolidation. Again, what would really propel the Barbados economy into a transformation is doing the institutional reforms that will seek to improve the ease of doing business. I cannot reiterate that enough.”
Since coming to office the Mottley administration has entered into a US$290 million agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) among the institutional reforms to turn around the economy.
“What is critical is that throughout the BERT programme, the government sticks to the task of these institutional reforms to help drive growth. Those reforms will help to improve the business environment so that investors can feel confident to bring their resources into Barbados and also for local investors to start investing so that we can see more opportunities in terms of employment for those in the society,” ram told reporters.
Following the IMF agreement, the CDB provided a BDS$150 million (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents) loan to Bridgetown to support the implementation of the BERT. The bank also lent BDS$40 million to upgrade infrastructure at Grantley Adams International Airport.
The CDB’s director of projects, Daniel Best, told reports that the bank would be providing more assistance to Bridgetown.
“the government of Barbados has reached out and we have been in discussions with them to shore up the social protection systems, ensuring that one, there is capacity within government to provide the kind of counseling, psychosocial support to the most vulnerable, but also develop and enhancing an all-encompassing social protection system in responding to the BERT programme.
“In doing that we have identified some resources. We have been in discussions with the respective ministries and we look forward to supporting government in that respect.”
The Barbados economy shrank by 0.6 per cent at the end of last year and CDB is forecasting zero growth for Barbados this year.
CDB President, Dr. Warren Smith, said the financial institution would continue to support the BERT programme, adding “we will further support BERT with more policy-based funding over each of the next three years.”