The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) ranks Barbados as the developing country with the highest Human Development Index (HDI). Notwithstanding, economic growth has been inconsistent. The country experienced a recession during the latter part of the 1980s to the early 1990s. The BLP, under the leadership of Arthur, sought to end this recession and stimulate economic growth as its term in office began in 1994. Since then, the GDP has increased significantly. After experiencing growth of 5% in 2000, GDP declined by 2% in 2001 due mainly to a decline in tourism.
In the 1990s, tourism surpassed agriculture as the country's main economic activity. However, agriculture output continued to grow, with sugar production expanding significantly in the late 1990s and other agricultural output also expanding, but on a slower pace.
The growth of tourism sparked an increase in construction activity, including three new hotels, the expansion and renovation of a number of existing properties, and the construction of the Port Charles Marina and associated facilities. This activity reflected the government's change of emphasis in the late 1990s from the industrial to the services sector.
The rate of unemployment decreased, from a rate of 19.7% in 1995 to 10% in 2001. This is in keeping with Arthur's aim to develop human resources within the country, a policy that has been welcomed by both the private and the public sectors. The BLP also seeks to create an information system that is aimed at facilitating universal and public access to manpower, the labor market, and working conditions in Barbados. In addition, the current government seeks to implement a national minimum wage that will ensure a satisfactory standard of living for all working Barbadians. In 1999, most workers made substantially more than the proscribed minimums by sector.
However, the Barbadian economy slowed sharply in 2001, according to Marion Williams, the president of the central bank. Modest growth posted in the first quarter turned negative, with the downward trend persisting into the third quarter. This was the first negative result since 1992. This economic recession will be a key factor in the 2004 election, as the DLP hopes to challenge Arthur's government.
Arthur's belief in free universal education was demonstrated as he continued to support free access to post-secondary and tertiary level institutions in Barbados and the University of the West Indies. He pledged BBD $100 million for education through a new seven-year strategy, "Edutech 2000." This strategy sought to modernize existing schools, increase the use of information and multimedia technologies, and enhance teacher training. Arthur hoped to strengthen the educational institutions through curriculum reform, as well as administrative reform in the ministry. This is in keeping with the BLP view that full employment in Barbados can be achieved, but only if individuals are trained with relevant skills.
The BLP seeks to promote the acquisition of land and construction of houses for all income groups through the Barbados Housing Authority while implementing measures to redevelop overcrowded areas.