Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has described as “shameful” Barbados’ low ranking on the availability of financing for business investment, and called on commercial banks to assume a developmental support role for small enterprises.
In delivering the keynote address at the Small Business Association’s annual awards ceremony that ended Small Business Week on Saturday, Arthur listed the unavailability of finances and difficulty in doing business as two obstacles to rapid commerce development here.
“It is one of our most shameful indices that according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2014/2015 Barbados Ranks 101 out of 144 nations in respect of ease of access to loans and venture capital availability,” he said at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.
Arthur, regarded as among the Caribbean’s leading economists, said there was no reason for such a low ranking, which he said persisted despite excess liquidity in the banking system.
He said the excess liquidity demonstrates that the country does not lack the financial resources to fund the “significant” expansion of its small business class. The current independent Member of Parliament also recommended that backing sector considers financing small business development and called for small business operators to think big.
“The time has come for the commercial financial sector of Barbados to accept that the financing of small enterprise formation and expansion is a legitimate risk that it must increasingly assume, as its justification for making profit,” the former Prime Minister said.
“Small enterprises in Barbados can drive Barbados’ development if they not only seek to fill niches in the small local market, but appreciate that they too must find a place in the global economic arena.”
Arthur repeatedly called for “an indigenous class” of international business people who can take advantage of market access provisions in trade agreements; opportunities created by the network of tax treaties and the opportunity that information and communication technology creates as the global economic enabler and driver.
He suggested that the “reimagining” of Barbados’ development would result in “a new kind of economy” which should be allowed to evolve.
“It will be an economy based less on the traditional factors of land, labour and capital, and more on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said, adding that in order to emerge as competitive the new economy must exist in an environment which is easier to establish and operate businesses.
“Regrettably, the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, which measures such attributes, indicates that Barbados has fallen significantly in this sphere,” Arthur lamented. (GA)