A government minister is willing to sit on a new joint select committee of Parliament the Opposition Barbados Labour Party is proposing to discuss issues concerning the international business sector.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, was responding this afternoon to a call for such a mechanism made last night in the House of Assembly by Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley and endorse by her Shadow Minister of Industry, Commerce and International Business, Kerrie Symmonds.
“The call for a joint select committee on this matter of international business is something that I am sure the minister will take on board and the leadership of the House, and if that is to happen I am sure, and I can certainly speak for myself and my other colleagues, will be happy
to participate,” the St. Michael South Central MP said as the Lower House continued debate on the budget vote for the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development.
“And I will assure the member [Symmonds] that what happened to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, when the former Member for the City had tasked her junior minister put together that committee that only met once in five years (will not be repeated).
“That was implementation deficit disorder I am sure and we know that wouldn’t happen again and we look forward to having a committee, if that is the case, that is put together,” he stated. Sealy said both the ruling Democratic Labour Party and BLP had experienced “peaks and troughs” in the international business sector, but that he saw value in a bi-partisan approach to resolving challenges therein”.
“I don’t know whether that was a peak or a trough but the one meeting was a very good meeting you will recall when we met in the Senate Chamber and we were able to discuss what was happening in … three negotiating theatres at the time,” he said.
“Barbados was engaged and I thought that was
a good decision to have a joint select committee at a time like that. Maybe the time is right to do a similar thing for the international business sector or dare I say business activity generally because
I too think that we have reached that point now where even as we define this creature international business it has changed.”
The minister said such discussions were important because the sector had changed since the days when it was simply referred to as the offshore sector.
“Really the two were used as similes, when you spoke of the international business sector you meant the offshore sector, but we are in a time right now where foreign investors are incorporating local companies to do business here and within the single market and Barbadians are incorporating international business companies, which they can do under our laws. So indeed this thing has morphed into an entire field,” he stated.
Sealy also saw an important role for small companies in this area of business activity and was happy with the ministry’s configuration.
“These are exciting times and therefore appropriate that we now have a ministry, a single point, that has sort of put together small enterprises, the medium sized enterprises, and of course the international business sector, those big companies,” he said.
“I am not necessarily taking digs here, but I think that for the record it is worth mentioning that the Foundations Legislation that we brought in here was asked for for a very long time, the legislation on Trusts was asked for for a very long time. They have come and we are looking at other products that we can also bring as well to enhance the offerings of the sector. “So you can’t say that the Government has not done what it had to do for the sector. We have not stopped with the bilateral investment treaties, we have not stopped with the tax information exchange agreements, and of course the network of (double taxation agreements), has also been increased and all of that should continue.
“But I do hold the view that it does need to be buttressed with the work that we are doing to build up the SMEs as well, … because … I don’t necessarily see that the firewall that existed is necessarily there anymore. Gone are the days when this rarified … thing called an offshore sector existed and only a few people were involved in that.” (SC)