Two businessmen have challenged plans by the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) to take tenants to court to recoup more than $11 million in outstanding rent. One of them, Trevor Clarke, has even threatened to stage a demonstration against the move.
Clarke, owner of Winifred Trophies, and owner of Regency Cove Hotel, Hal Martin, said they did not agree that going the route of eviction or court was the right move, given the current economic conditions.
Addressing a media conference today, they argued that taking such action could result in the closure of businesses that were not in a position to meet their obligations to the BIDC. Clarke told Barbados TODAY that “if necessary” he would “demonstrate”.
Earlier this month, the BIDC’s chief executive officer Sonja Trotman warned that the statutory body would be enforcing stricter rent collection measures from May 1. She said the agency would also be taking “urgent action” against delinquent tenants of its industrial estates, including eviction and legal action, noting that about 23 of the total of 181 tenants might be affected in the first instance and another 20 in the second phase.
Although pointing out that he was not a BIDC tenant, Clarke said: “We have friends there and, if it is necessary, we will go and demonstrate about it . . . The BIDC of today needs to do what the BIDC of yesterday did . . . Meet with [tenants] and see, through technical assistance and guidance, what could be done.”
“It is not the manufacturers’ fault they are not paying their rent. The fault lies firmly with past governments and the current government [for] giving away our market to the countries that have been devalued and are abusing the OECS. I feel the time has come for the OECS and Barbados to leave CARICOM. It is wrong and it is criminal,” added Clarke.
He argued that those businesses that owed rent wanted to pay but could not, due to diminished market share which had resulted in decreased sales over the years.
“I know a firm that used to sell at a major souvenir store in Broad Street over $160,000 worth of product every year . . . He sells now $16,000 a year. How could he pay rent?” queried Clarke, calling for an investigation into the importation of some items, especially in the garment industry.
Martin described the pending move by the BIDC as “wrong”.
“The market has changed because we here in Barbados have become the ATM for the region and other parts of the world. We allow all kinds of businesses to come in here and set up their shop and what do we give them? We give them tax holiday, we give them rent rebate, we give them wages rebate and we do nothing for our own, and then expect that our own businesses must compete,” he said
The two businessmen made it clear they were not blaming the BIDC CEO for the pending action, charging that the move was “a political decision”.