Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s today issued a clear signal to the international community that Barbados and its fellow Caribbean states are open for business.
Addressing a Commonwealth Business Forum, which focused on investment, Stuart told the audience that the region offered a wide array of opportunities in construction, manufacturing, oil and gas.
He also pointed to traditional sectors, such as tourism and related activities, agriculture, fishing and marine products, and services, including the entertainment industry.
“The growth potential for these sectors, though somewhat diminished in accord with their current life cycle, can be resuscitated through innovation and product diversification.
“Then there are the new and emerging opportunities in respect of agriculture and agribusiness, tourism [health and wellness], renewable energy and business/ICT related services, and cultural industries.”
Stuart, who was joined by his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) counterparts Timothy Harris of St Kitts and Nevis and Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, also zeroed in on the renewable energy sector
as a major priority for investment in CARICOM states.
The Prime Minister, who is the chairman of the 15-nation CARICOM grouping, noted that regional states had agreed targets for the introduction of renewable energy sources, explaining that they had committed to 20 per cent in 2017, 28 per cent in 2022, and 47 per cent in 2027.
“We are working assiduously with our development partners towards that achievement”.
Describing the Caribbean as one of the regions of the world with the greatest potential for renewable energy, in particular solar energy, the Prime Minister said Barbados already has one of the highest penetration levels for solar water heaters. He pointed out that in excess of 30 per cent of households were equipped with these energy-saving, carbon neutral devices.
As he continued with his major investment pitch, the Prime Minister said public-private partnerships were also being encouraged in areas such as water system renewal and upgrade; sewerage system expansion, upgrade and aquifer recharge with treated water; airport expansion; cruise port upgrade and expansion; affordable housing for sale; and energy efficiency and renewable energy in government facilities.
“CARICOM states remain extremely optimistic about their capacity to attract growth-inducing investments to drive the sustainable development process, but remain mindful that exogenous events can considerably derail economic expansion,” said Stuart, adding that “recent experience highlights this vulnerability and underscores the importance of building economic resilience to withstand external shocks.”
The Prime Minister pointed out that just prior to 2008, and the onset of the global financial and economic crisis, there was a surge of interest in locating investments in certain CARICOM states. He disclosed that this interest was focused on hotels, condominiums, real estate development and golf courses, as well as other service sector opportunities, including areas ranging from private health care, the establishment of specialist financial services to port development and sea transport.
The CARICOM chairman said this interest represented a welcomed shift from traditional approaches and the usual government to government relationships. According to him, the new focus is now on the ability of CARICOM governments to interact in a meaningful manner with global financiers and entrepreneurs.
“CARICOM states are aiming to rekindle this interest and are ready to lift the image of the region’s business operating environment,” he stressed. He urged interested investors to join Caribbean governments in developing the region further, and broadening and diversifying economic opportunities for investment for their benefit, as well as the people of the region.