Barbadians will have only themselves to blame if another foreign entity is allowed to swoop up another one of this island’s leading conglomerates.
Breaking his silence today on the controversial bid by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ansa McAl and the St Lucia-registered SLU Beverages Limited to take over leading drinks manufacturer Banks Holdings Limited (BHL), prominent businessman Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams said the developments spring from the fact that Barbadians were simply too risk-averse.
“It [risk taking] is just not in [our] nature,” he told Barbados TODAY in an interview this morning at his Cane Garden, St Thomas office where he also suggested that the BHL take-over bid was likely to succeed.
He said the current aversion to risk taking was a real problem for the island that was not only affecting share ownership, but was also a contributing factor to recent business failures.
“Barbadians are risk averse. A dollar in the bank to them is solid money. A dollar in Banks Holdings . . . [I] bet you. . . as soon as the price settles down, everybody gine sell and put the money in the bank.”
Asked if the Williams Industries group which he heads would be willing to make a play for BHL to ensure that it remains in local hands, the wealthy business executive was adamant he was not interested in buying out the local conglomerate.
In fact, he said he was not interested in taking over any business that was already in existence since his company’s practice and policy was a pioneering one.
However, he complained about what he termed a “conspiracy” to stop local entrepreneurs like him from developing innovative ventures.
“You call it the crab syndrome; that is what it is!” contended Williams, who singled out the Town & Country Planning Department as one of his greatest sources of frustration as he seeks to reduce the flight of foreign exchange from this country through the expansion of solar energy initiatives.
He also lamented that the local Fair Trading Commission (FTC) has tied the price of alternative energy to the price of crude oil. Therefore, “the price of alternative energy produced by the sun that costing nothing, is varying with the price of oil,” he lamented.
Williams, who on Saturday received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies for his contribution to business, also said the issues could all be tied back to a problem of leadership in the country.
“I believe we need to set aside at least 50 per cent of all the alternative energy produced in this island to be produced by Barbadian-owned companies. But there is an old saying,’when the man head bad, the whole body bad’. And if you don’t have strong leadership, Errol Barrow kind of leadership at the head, you will wallow.
“. . . where there is no vision the people perish,” he added.
“Here it is we selling Banks [BHL], you selling out BS&T [Barbados Shipping & Trading], everything gone,” said Williams, whose holding company owns at least 19 businesses.