||Central Bank Of Barbados
In May 2019, I had the privilege of being named the 6th Distinguished Visiting Fellow to the Central Bank of Barbados. Prior to my visit, I knew a bit about Barbados. I knew that the economy of Barbados was similar to that of other Caribbean islands, favoured by tourists for its beautiful sand beaches and a mild climate, but also dealing with aging infrastructure and a high dependence on imports for food and energy. I was also aware Barbados had recently entered a programme with the IMF to restructure its debt and was under pressure from multilateral institutions to bring its low capital tax rate into alignment with other advanced economies.
Of course, the story of Barbados is infinitely more complex than tourism, taxes and debt. To inform me about the challenges facing economic policymakers, the Central Bank arranged a comprehensive set of meetings and events with economists, business leaders, journalists, labour leaders and politicians, (including the recently-elected Prime Minister, Mia Mottley). These wide-ranging discussions were an opportunity to deepen my understanding of the far-reaching set of reforms recently undertaken by the government, including its plans for debt reduction, tax reform, exchange rate stability and ways to ignite growth.
The proposed structural reforms and debt-repayment strategies will be difficult but are absolutely essential to the health of the Barbados economy. However, like any other democratic society, Barbados cannot implement these changes without the support of the country’s citizens. I was particularly impressed by the outreach of the government regarding its policies and the degree of awareness by ordinary citizens of the many changes taking place in the country.
To engage and inform the public on the status of the Barbados economy, the Central Bank organized a 90-minute live television interview broadcast across the Caribbean countries, with questions provided by a local journalist and audience participants. The topic was "In a World of Rising Debt, How Can Caribbean Countries Stay Afloat?" and the conversation focused on the many challenges facing Barbados and other small economies in the Caribbean. As the invited speaker, my goal was to clearly explain the implications of high debt and the debt reduction strategies that have worked elsewhere. I was pleased at the calibre of the questions posed during the call-in portion of the broadcast, and was especially delighted at the compliment from an audience member who remarked that he was so happy they had found an "economist who can speak English!"
I want to thank the Central Bank and all of its staff for its generosity, openness and hard work during my time at the Central Bank. The CBB staff was highly professional, helping me to prepare for every event and ensuring that every detail was attended to. Your warm welcome to me and my family is deeply appreciated. We had a marvellous time, and I wish you the best of success with your many ambitious programmes and in securing the next round of distinguished visitors.