Finance and accounting representatives are lamenting Barbados’ failure to attract more foreign direct investment through incentives and also make it easier to do business on the island against the backdrop of an economy struggling to record favourable growth.
Participating earlier this week in a panel discussion to mark the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) Accountants’ Week 2015, the representatives said unless there is an improvement in incentives and business facilitation, hopes of attracting more foreign direct as well as local investment would continue to be difficult.
Certified accountant David Simpson said a recent conversation with a colleague who was carrying out a study in Jamaica, revealed that a lot of people who are looking to invest in the region are not necessarily looking for incentives.
“They are interested in . . . how quickly can I get a company set up, how quickly can I get a judgment in court, . . . so the business processes and efficiencies are what they are most interested in.
“That I think is something we need to look at as a means of attracting further investment. I am not saying there is not room for incentives but I think we have been so heavily dependent on incentives to get people to come.”
“There (are) other issues and I think we seriously need to consider that if we are still going to attract the investment from outside,” Simpson noted.
Director of Investment Promotion at Invest Barbados, Kenneth Campbell, acknowledged there are “some challenges” that need to be addressed, but quickly pointed out that the island is actively pursuing a number of ITC-related companies to invest here.
He said focus is on attracting financial services, support services including call centres and medical transcription.
“In some markets, we focus on the captive insurance market,” Campbell added.
“We do have some challenges with the infrastructure and some on the regulatory side of things but we are actively working on these,” he said in response to a question from the audience.
Pointing out that he has the task of bringing business into what one would consider a difficult environment, Campbell said the work requires a united effort.
“We do have dialogue with all of the regulatory bodies and departments that are required to set up the companies and we do let them know the expectations that the investors have when they come in,” he explained, agreeing that the turnover rate in some Government departments needs to be improved.
President of the Barbados Economic Society (BES), Jeremy Stephen, said in the process of business facilitation, good leadership is important. He added that Barbados needs to “considerably extend” its model of industrialization, which currently focuses more on offering tax incentives.
“But in this day and time, intellectual property has way more value than physical plants,” he said.
“So then you realize if you want to compete as a country, the incentives have to include the doing business indicators . . . So I do believe one of the things that will drive the so-called foreign direct investment in the future, comes down to treating those indicators as a measure of what incentives to give,” Stephen added, while suggesting a model where higher fees could be charged in relation to faster approval time.
“What’s wrong with charging somebody that wants to come in with $100 million investment? What’s wrong with charging them extra so they can get their papers processed in less than a minute? What is wrong with price discrimination? It is a central thing in economics,” Stephen argued.