The slump in foreign direct investment Barbados has suffered from in recent years is concerning Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler.
Sinckler said while two foreign investors, including a new telecommunications market entrant, had together committed to pumping about $170 million into the local economy, there was a need for a renewed focus in this area.
“It was one of the hardest hit areas because of the financial crisis, it bred a lot of instability in that market, a lot of uncertainty among investors, people who had projects stopped them or slowed them down, people who had projects on the table took them off and we lost a lot of value in relation to that level of investment,” he said during a media conference yesterday.
“It has come back up but it has not reached the boom of pre-crisis levels because it is not there around the world anyway. What we are trying to do is to ensure that our facilitation processes … bare at peak.
“There are many of them that are there in the process, either at town planning stage or whatever the case may be. I met one major business entity at eight o’clock this morning at my office here and they indicated that they are proposing to invest $70 million in the Barbados economy over the next year to 18 months, that they are ready to go and that they are going to be doing this.
“They have also indicated that they have received offers and interest in property which they have in Barbados from investors who are prepared to now come and invest larger sums of money beyond that,” he added.
As for the telecommunications company, the minister said its officials “have indicated that they are prepared to invest close to $100 million in Barbados to build out plant and they have approached the Ministry of Finance about concessions to do so”.
“We have additional investments … and we are in the process of working with some of the projects that are stalled to ensure that those get going. In the meantime, that is why Government is pushing its own programme for assets, which are going to be Government-owned assets by Government companies but which are not on central Government’s budget, which would bring in foreign exchange to help add to that investment,” he said.
Sinckler added, however, that the island had no such challenges, based on feedback from international financiers, in raising foreign exchange on the global markets.
He said he recently returned from an overseas roadshow and the feedback from that exercise showed him confidence about the management of the Barbados economy and its future “are exceedingly higher than what we get here in Barbados”.
“It’s unbelievable, and our investors we met with them, people who actually buy our paper, they have indicated that Barbados is the type of sovereign that they want in a market. They also asked the question ‘Why doesn’t Barbados come to the market more often?’. We have one of the lowest rates of international debt and debt service,” he noted.
“The investment banks told us that people from Asia and Latin America have been calling and saying… ‘You have been giving us Bolivia and Argentina, what about Barbados?’…
“In fact, they are saying there is more interest in Barbados now that it is not investment grade than when it supposedly was… We will take the information and consider it and if we believe that it is in the interest of the country to do it we will do it.
“Right now we don’t have to. We have managed our foreign exchange functions so well that frankly we don’t have to go, but if for additional insurance or security or whatever you want, … then the Central Bank will advise us on that matter. (SC)