Serious skill deficiencies in “a few” areas critical to the operation of international businesses need to be corrected if Barbados is to be transformed into an international wealth management and international services hub.
This was the first area discussed in the five-point plan outlined by Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite, for achieving Government’s Medium-Term Development Strategy to transforming the sector.
He made these comments while delivering the keynote address at a seminar hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants on International Business Update – Wealth Management at Hilton Barbados today.
Brathwaite said the deficiencies rested with critical areas such as the units responsible for product development and implementation.
“How else can you explain 10 years to create foundation legislation, almost a similar time frame for private trust company legislation, and after a year of both pieces of legislation being passed through Parliament we still cannot have the regulations to have these two tools utilised by you the practitioners,” he stated.
The Attorney General further raised questions about the fact that the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property website could only be viewed in English despite years of promising to have it in other languages.
Stressing that he was not attacking the skills of any individual or individuals in these departments, he made it clear that he was acknowledging that there was a shortage of skills necessary to take the sector forward.
The minister recommended that in future there needed to be an examination of the skills sets in the crucial areas, and address the deficiencies identified.
“There can be no compromise on this any longer. It is my opinion that we need to have the right mix [but], we don’t have the right mix in terms of skills presently,” he stated.
Turning his attention to those involved in the sector, Brathwaite told his audience that their dependence on Government to take the lead in international business had to change.
He pointed out that while Government had a role to play in creating legislation and an enabling environment and ensuring that there were tax opportunities and business facilitation, the practitioners needed to take the lead in the process.
“If you depend on Invest Barbados and the International Business Unit it will not work. You, yourselves, have to take up the challenge and do it,” he said, stressing that the private sector needed to spend more money on marketing the international business sector.
Furthermore, Brathwaite identified the need for Barbados to find its niche and focus on its development.
“I believe our niche is wealth management… I believe our opportunities reside in providing administrative services [via] our natural labour force and, our well educated pool of individuals,” he said.
Stressing that it was no longer possible to rely on normal processes, the minister pointed out that in the first quarter of 2013, the British Virgin Islands registered 16,666 new companies and 139 new funds, while the Cayman Islands registered 11,209 funds by the end of June this year. In comparison, he added, Barbados had 225 new companies by June this year.
However, for things to turn around, the Attorney General said the people of Barbados, be they lawyers, accountants, investment managers, immigration officers or town planners, must be prepared to offer a first class service on par with the type of service found in major financial capitals.