||Last Updated: Jun 20, 2014 - 5:05:44 PM
Former Bahamas finance minister says newly elected Caribbean leaders face difficult economic conditions
BAHAMAS - A leading Caribbean economist says the newly
elected administrations in Grenada and Barbados can steer their
respective countries onto a path of economic sustainability, but it will
require "genuine spiritual leadership devoid of ego in order to make
difficult decisions with awareness, intelligence, wisdom and
Laing, a former Bahamian cabinet minister, lauded the experience of
Prime Ministers Dr. Keith Mitchell and Freundel Stuart of Grenada and
Barbados respectively and noted they preside over their nations at a
"challenging time in the economic and social history of the world, when
there is a great need to pursue economic growth strategies that generate
jobs and improve income prospects for their people."
noted that the Caribbean leaders "still face challenges as economic
headwinds continue to buffet the global economy, notwithstanding its
slow rebound from the recent financial and economic crisis."
there are possibilities from pursuing pro-growth policies," suggested
Laing who served as Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance in the
past Hubert Ingraham administration.
noted the need to "encourage domestic investment through international
capital access and promote inward foreign direct investment." He also
urged a similar push domestically to support the needs of small and
medium size enterprises, "more so in non-financial ways (such as
management, technology, market access and cost savings) and improving
efficiencies in the public sector."
on his own ministerial experiences, Laing recalled "one of the great
lessons of the last crisis is that years of prudent fiscal management
can produce financial headroom (low debt-servicing) which is an enormous
asset to have in a crisis."
"headroom" was valuable, Laing asserted, because it provided "the
ability to engage in the kind of fiscal activity that supports an
economy, protects the financial system and provides relief to those
socially displaced during a crisis."
former Bahamian finance minister said new administrations are quickly
thrust into a balancing act, "facing the difficult task of balancing the
realities of government finances with significantly limited room for
maneuvering with the demands of greater investments in public education,
public health, infrastructure, crime reduction and public sector
can no longer implement their mandates all by themselves and with their
allocated resources, he asserted: "They will have to be creative in
exploring the benefits of prudent public private partnerships - as well
as achieving efficiency gains in government administration."
an author, management consultant and leadership trainer, said the
Eastern Caribbean leaders also come to office when new global standards
threaten some of the traditional economic sectors of Caribbean
such change, the new and evolving standards in international financial
services, threatens the lucrative offshore financial sectors.
careful attention to international trade negotiations, Laing pointed to
policies which have made historic market access to certain products
less effective and imposed new reciprocal demands that prove challenging
to small and vulnerable industries.
was confident the new administrations will "approach dealing with these
issues with a clear sense of purpose but appreciating the competing
interest of the global powers."
all of this, Laing believes, new and current administrations will have
to recognize the enormous stress being suffered by so many families in
their countries and which have taken many of them to "the brink of near
the human element of government priorities, he said "for many of these
families, economic and social relief will not be forthcoming in any
short period of time, so their frustrations may yet linger. It will be
incumbent on leaders therefore to communicate with their populations
genuinely and forthrightly."
such difficult economic times the former cabinet minister said "the
demands of the present moment require honest public policy dialogue with
citizens, making clear what is necessary, doable and prudent. Politics
as usual will be a mistake."
in the best of times with all hands on deck, we are challenged to steer
the ship of state to safe harbor; in the worst of times it is
impossible to do so if all hands are not on deck. Prime Minister
Mitchell of Grenada's pledge to promote unity amongst his people is both
timely and timeless. It is a necessary pledge throughout the region.
Execution now is necessary," he concluded.
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