January 28, 2000
The Barbados economy grew for the seventh straight year, but last year’s 3.2 per cent growth was slower than the 4.2 per cent in 1998. At the same time the Central Bank is forecasting growth for this year at between two and three per cent.
In presenting her first year-end review yesterday, Central Bank Governor Dr. Marion Williams said this continued growth had contributed to lower unemployment figures which was at 10.2 per cent by September, the lowest since 1975.
Another positive was inflation, which on average was 1.5 per cent despite being up from the 1.2 of 1998.
Once again the main engine of growth was construction which rose by 9.3 per cent when compared with 13 per cent the previous year.
Tourism, which has been the mainstay of the economy following the decline of sugar, grew by a meagre 0.2 per cent, the lowest since 1993.
This, Williams said, had resulted from a dramatic 12.5 per cent fall in cruise ship arrivals and was the main cause of the marginal decline in the sectors that earn foreign exchange.
Manufacturing was another sector down; and its marginal fall of 0.8 per cent made it the first time in five years this industry did not grow.
The Central Bank governor attributed its slump to the challenges of trade liberalisation.
Sugar production last year recovered by 10.8 per cent to reach 53 196 tonnes.
In contrast, non-sugar agriculture fell by 6.5 per cent after growth in the first three months of last year held out hope for the other nine months.
Chief contributors to this decline was a 15.1 and 12.2 per cent drop in fish catches and milk production, respectively.
The international reserves rose by $70.9 million and this resulted in the reserve cover for exports from 12.9 weeks in 1998 to 14.1 weeks at the end of December.
However, it was facilitated by the borrowing of $150 million on the regional capital market.