BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Wednesday January 20, 2016 – The Barbados economy grew by a marginal 0.5 per cent last year, according to the country’s Central Bank, and tourism was the industry to thank, as it was the only sector that recorded any growth.
Central Bank Governor Dr. Delisle Worrell said yesterday that the performance of the island’s main foreign exchange earner was “stellar”, but the same could not be said for other sectors.
There was a 13 per cent increase in airlift from major source markets, an expansion in room stock, and refurbishment of the aging hotel plant and “the tourism outturn was the best on record since 2007, with activity in the sector rebounding to pre-crisis levels”.
“Tourism receipts grew by an estimated five per cent, with arrivals up by 14 per cent, and all major markets recorded double digit increases,” Dr. Worrell reported during his review of the country’s 2015 economic performance.
On the other hand, construction activity is estimated to have decreased by three per cent, due largely to unexpected delays in the start of major infrastructural projects; and the retail, business and other services sectors saw limited spillovers, because there was no impetus from the foreign exchange sectors, other than tourism.
Additionally, Dr. Worrell said, the average unemployment rate for 2015 was 11.8 per cent, compared with 12.3 per cent in 2014. He noted that while labour costs are estimated to have risen by one per cent every year since 2008, there has been no perceptible increase in productivity.
The Central Bank Governor said tourism would continue to be the economy’s saviour this year, with help from a rebounding construction sector.
“Tourism and construction should provide enough stimulus to the wholesale, retail and business services to produce economic growth of about 1.8 percent in 2016,” he said.
“Over the next five years, real GDP is forecast to expand by 1.7 per cent on average, peaking at about two per cent in 2017 when major tourism infrastructural projects, such as Sandals, Wyndham (the former Sam Lord’s Castle), and other tourism development projects are expected to be in process or nearing completion.”
Dr Worrell said the island’s competitive strengths in tourism, coupled with a projected seven per cent increase in airlift during the current winter season and the completion of a new berth at the Bridgetown Port, should also augur well for growth.