Stop wasting money on LIAT, and start paying more attention to ironing out the challenges associated with the shipping of goods throughout the region.
This stern warning comes from Leroy McClean, the chief executive officer of the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation (BIDC) to Government and other policymakers.
Speaking on the challenges manufacturers were facing in getting their goods out of the island, McClean made it clear he would not be giving up in his efforts to encourage improvements in shipping conditions, cautioning that unless something was done to correct the situation, regional trade would continue to be stymied.
His comments came less than a week after executive director of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA), Bobbie McKay, expressed serious frustration about issues affecting the shipping of goods in and out of the island.
McKay, in an interview with Barbados TODAY even threatened to blacklist some shipping lines if they did not adjust their pricing structures.
Today, as he addressed graduands of the Export Readiness Programme of the BIDC at the Bagnall’s Point Gallery in Pelican Village, McClean stressed that “instead of wasting so much money on LIAT”, regional governments should “put a fraction of it into finding one or two ships that can go through the Caribbean to replace the Federal Maple and Federal Palm [merchant ships used by member states at the time of the West Indies Federation], and perhaps we will see greater development.
“If we can move goods, people will follow. If we concentrate on moving people all they will be doing is moving to shop. So we need to do something about our shipping situation and the movement of goods in the region,” he said.
Complaining that it was cheaper for Jamaica to get products directly from Japan than it was for them shipped from Barbados, McClean described the current situation as “ridiculous”.
“I will continue to flog what seems to be a dead horse. Unless we do something about the shipping in the region, we will not be able to develop the kind of trading that we are supposed to. You cannot integrate isolated countries. And right now St Lucia is next door, Brazil is just down the road from us, but if you want to get something to or from Brazil, it has to go through the Dominican Republic or Miami,” lamented McCLean.
He said the delays and high costs were further compounded by the various standards and other requirements from the United States when products had to pass through that territory.
McClean called on the 11 companies that took part in the Export Readiness Programme to help the BIDC “put pressure” on the authorities to ensure they did what was necessary to improve the means of getting local goods out to the rest of the Caribbean.
McClean said it made no sense that the BIDC and other organizations were working to get companies ready to export their products and when it was time to do so they were not able to get them out.
“So I think it is very important that we start to look at this problem,” he said.
“It makes no sense trying to see Barbados as a market. The less than 300,000 people that we have here cannot be a viable market for you. And a lot of you do not make things that are immediately ready for the tourism sector. Therefore we have to see how we can get into the wider region,” added McClean.