The days of allocating taxpayer revenue to induce businesses to invest in Barbados, may be over. This was indicated today by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart while addressing a Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry business luncheon at Hilton Barbados Resort.
“There appears,” Stuart said, “to be an emerging view in some, admittedly restricted quarters, that government must allocate taxpayer revenue to induce businesses to invest,” Stuart observed. However, he told the business leaders, they now had to come up with a fresh approach if they wanted assistance.
“The small size of the local economy and narrow base of the principal drivers of economic activity, renders private sector demand for substantial fiscal support unsustainable. I should be pleased to know from you, any other creative and innovative ways in which we can help you,” he suggested.
Stuart, who is lead spokesman in the CARICOM Heads of Government quasi-Cabinet, drew attention to the “urgent” need to raise the level of engagement of both the private and public sectors in the process towards the CSME.”
He said that this year, the Prime Minister’s Office would be heightening its public education programme on the CSME to help Barbadians to avail themselves of the opportunities presented by this still evolving economic mechanism.
Stuart also outlined a numbers of ways in which the private sector could assist government in restructuring the economy and aid in the recovery. “I refer to the report of the Inter-American Development Bank on a competitiveness study of selected CARICOM countries, that cited ten debilitating challenges to the economic recovery of our nation.
The two foremost challenges identified in that report are: poor work ethic [and] access to financing,” the Government leader stated. He was of the view that neither the public sector nor the private sector can afford to ignore these two “critical” weaknesses.
“A good work ethic and easier access to financing are indispensable prerequisites to the sustainable development of Barbados.” Stuart said he had no doubt that work ethic had much to do with the degree of worker engagement at the workplace.
“A high level of worker engagement wil result in the productive and effective discharge by the work of his or her responsibilities. A low level of engagement will continue to undermine efforts at attaining the high level of productivity at which we aim,” suggested the Prime Minister. Stuart said the Government was committed to working with the leadership of employees and business, to develop programmes and strategies to deal fully with the serious challenges identified in the IDB report.
“Your leadership is well placed to address the challenge pertaining to limited access to financing. He noted, too, that the inward-looking focus of large segments of the local private sector, was inimical to the sustained growth and development of the Barbados economy.
“Government strategies to increase the range and volume of exports through initiatives undertaken by the Barbados Industrial Development Corporation, and the trade section of Barbados’ embassies and consulates have, according to available information, achieved minimal success.”