The Freundel Stuart administration should consider establishing Barbados as a trans-shipment hub, as it grapples with the restructuring of the economy.
Economist Jeremy Stephen threw out this suggestion on Wednesday night during his presentation at a panel discussion sponsored by the James Tudor Institute of Politics at the St Leonard’s Boys’ Secondary School, Richmond Gap, St Michael.
Arguing that with the expansion of the Panama Canal project soon to be completed, the sea lanes in the Caribbean Sea will become busier, Stephen said: “I have been whipping that dead horse of trans-shipment and there are a number of opportunities in that same area. As a country we may not be able to finance it now.
“However, we have to be cognizant that as in the days of slavery, it is an area where Barbados can generate a lot of tourism and international business.
“There is a city called Maria in North West Cuba where the Cuban government is building a $900 million trans-shipment and free zone area. This project will now allow the Cubans with the Panama Canal expansion project scheduled to be completed this year to generate a large amount of foreign exchange. In addition, it will reduce the cost of doing business and the cost of living for the Cuban people,” Stephen added.
The economist told his audience that there was no need to show much concern over the Cuban project, but warned that more concern should be shown over a project to be undertaken by Chinese investors on Goat Islands to the north of Jamaica.
Stephen pointed out that the Chinese developers had plans in place to make the islands a free trade zone and a trans-shipment hub for trading into Europe and the United States.
Noting that even oil rich Trinidad and Tobago was putting plans in place to cash in on the trans-shipment business, Stephen said: “Even our brothers to our immediate south . . . [have] signed an agreement as of February this year with China Harbour Engineering Inc. to create a trans-shipment hub.
“Barbados lies along the shortest route between the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal, which is the gateway to the Middle East.
“A supertanker leaving Barbados at full capacity will arrive in London before a similar one of similar speed leaving Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago. There are many investors sniffing around in the region and we do not want Trinidad and Tobago to benefit exclusively from this business.”
Earlier, while acknowledging that the new technology currently sweeping the world fed into many areas, the outspoken economist suggested that we “rubbish” the idea of creating another Silicon Valley in Barbados.
“The area of technology is a very big area going forward in terms of export earnings . . . . We do not have the technical capabilities as it stands. Different infrastructures have to be built politically and socially in order to attract the right talent,” Stephen pointed out.