Operators of many large companies in the country are being labelled as “lazy and sitting ducks” by Minister of Commerce and International Trade Donville Inniss.
He leveled the harsh criticism last evening as he touted Trinidad-based regional conglomerate Massy Group of Companies’ expansion in Barbados.
Inniss said businesses, save for a few, have focused solely on the local market, ignoring the opportunities available through regional expansion.
Speaking specifically on the fact that “prized entities” are now in foreign hands, the Minister said Barbadians have only lost a little pride as a result.
“Have we lost jobs? Have we lost other investment opportunities? The way I see it, there are lessons to be learnt in that Barbadians need to make a greater effort to invest in themselves and their entities, not just quarrel about others who are coming in here . . . . Also, sometimes in order to grow out you need to join with others,” he stated.
Inniss insisted that Massy’s expansion in Barbados presents an opportunity for Barbadian manufacturers to get their products into other markets in which the company operates.
Economist Jeremy Stephens also weighed in on the issue, saying the move by Massy “sends a serious signal to Barbadian businesses that it’s not business as usual.”
“If we don’t understand what we do have in terms of potential, in terms of a very liquid financial sector, in terms of changing our culture . . . you’ll see more Massys. I have no problem with Massy being here,” he stressed.
“If we have the best practices innate in our business practices then there’ll be less room for ‘Massys’ to come but more for us to go in to their country and show that we are the best at what we do,” Stephen added in his wide-ranging presentation on the state of the economy.
He suggested that Barbados consider importing foreign labour, skilled in certain industries, but with a requirement for information exchange and that Barbadians be allowed to hold top management positions.
Meantime, he is urging the administration to begin exporting in “a serious manner” to generate more United States currency.
He noted that Government could face a $300 million revenue shortfall in the next fiscal year, which would cause it to borrow more to survive and to ensure the Central Bank maintains the peg to the US dollar.
One of the options being recommended by the economic society boss is deepened trade with China.
“China has decided, within the Asian bloc, to start doing international trade with Korea, Japan, Indonesia, not in US dollars but in yuan or renminbi which is their currency. That opens up a lot of opportunities, not just for trade without US dollars, but there are a lot more implications in terms of doing business in Asia. More importantly, it would mean that projects would be funded, not by US dollars, but with Chinese currency,” he said.
On another issue, the economist cautioned Government against dismissing credit ratings agencies.
“You can disregard credit rating agencies once you have investment grade debt . . . You can probably disregard credit rating agencies once you’re just below investment grade debt but the time you’re into the junk bond territory there’s not way you can do that,” he advised.