Investor confidence and cooperatives shore-up Barbados economy, says government ministers

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[L – R] Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland (FP) and Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn (FP)

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) — The recent upgrade in Barbados’ foreign and local currency rating by Moody’s rating agency demonstrates the confidence of international investors in the effectiveness of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) Programme, minister in the ministry of finance, Ryan Straughn affirmed, and that the upgrade signalled to all that the government of Barbados was committed to effective management of the public finances of this country; meanwhile, minister of small business, entrepreneurship and commerce, Dwight Sutherland, expressed the view that income from cooperatives have the potential to continue fuelling the island’s economy.

Delivered the feature address at the re-opening and naming ceremony of the Barbados Workers’ Union Co-operative Credit Union Limited, (BWU) Fairchild Street, Bridgetown, Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn said:

“These gains will yield dividends in the growth strategy for the island going forward and will contribute to an overall improvement in the quality of life for all Barbadians. To date, we have met all the targets under the BERT programme supported by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) extended fund facility, and this government remains committed to ensuring that the country’s economic position and growth going forward is as inclusive as possible.  This programme and the growth it will deliver will ensure that prosperity is spread to as wide a cohort of Barbadians as possible.

“At present, we are continuing negotiations of the external debt restructuring with our external creditors and are optimistic about concluding this part of the debt restructuring in due course, so as to cement international business confidence and bring even greater investment to our shores,” Straughn said.

The minister stressed that credit unions must strive to provide their members with the means to open businesses, financed by their peers, as part of the transformation of the Barbados economy, and noted that the public sector could not achieve the recovery and transformation goals of the BERT programme on its own. 

“It is through partnerships with the private sector, labour unions and credit unions that tangible reform and transformation would be achieved,” Straughn said, and “urged the BWU to continue to aggressively promote financial literacy within the school system through on the spot presentations, where they could make contact with students of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, in an effort to bring financial literacy and guidance to the next generation.”

Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland (second left), presents an official Certificate of Registration to representatives of Farm Connect Cooperative, Elvin Greene (centre) and Zachary Moore (second right), while Chairman of the Cooperatives Development Planning Committee, Oriel Doyle (left) and Registrar of the Cooperatives Department, Brent Gittens (right), look on. (GP)

At the celebrations to mark International Cooperatives Day, July 6, under the theme COOPS 4 DECENT WORK, in support of the United Nations General Assembly Sustainable Development Goal Number 8 – “inclusive development and decent work”, minister of small business, entrepreneurship and commerce, Dwight Sutherland said;  

“That an estimated US $6.6 million could be generated from the Ross University alone, during the first 12 months of their operation here; and in part from the transport cooperative known as the Barbados Association of Coach Owners Co-operative Society Limited, which was recently formed to help service the university.

Sutherland noting that Barbados had 59 cooperatives, which span sectors such as transport, craft, saving societies, investment, financial (better known as credit unions) and agriculture, 24 of these were non-financial.

Since June 1, 2018 to present, the cooperative movement had afforded ordinary Barbadians the power to participate in economic activity and generate income “to make a living which in many cases could not exist on an individualistic basis”.

Recognizing the contribution of cooperatives to the economy Sutherland said:

“The benefits of cooperatives extend across all boundaries, whether it be tackling poverty, making finance affordable, developing a cadre of experts locally and internationally, empowering vulnerable groups, especially women, and developing cooperative networks, among others, ” Sutherland continued.

“We are all too familiar with these institutions, which over time have amassed assets in excess of $2.4 billion, employing over 500 persons, and accounting for an estimated 205,800 membership base. Concurrently, the non-financial cooperatives have accrued assets estimated at $10 million, and enjoy a membership of approximately 830 persons,” he said.

The island’s cooperatives were also said to mirror those globally, as they were democratic, people-centred, value-driven and locally controlled organizations that foster social inclusion.   “The unique business structure brings with it strength, organization and solidarity to the movement.  Moreover, cooperatives have been highly effective in enabling many Barbadians to gain a voice and mobilize themselves to pursue mutual economic interests and to secure social protection,” Sutherland added. 

“Across the world, indigenous people, refugees, migrants, women in rural and urban areas, unemployed persons, the elderly and the disabled have all found possibilities for social and economic participation and advancement through cooperative action and enterprise. These unique and enabling features in and of themselves allow the cooperative mechanism to be one of the main engines of economic growth in any economy,” he said.

Sharon Austin and Joy-Ann Gill of BGIS contributed to this report.

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