Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss has said that it is time for Government to look at divestment of State assets, as a means of reducing public expenditure.
Without listing any assets for sale, the Minister broached the controversial subject of privatization during a feature address last night at the annual awards ceremony of Williams Industries, which he lauded as a largely successful private enterprise.
“I believe that there are many things that the State provides today that certainly can be spun off, sold off to the private sector, in a manner that it empowers the majority in this country, as Williams is doing,” he told the gathering at the Plantation Restaurant, Christ Church.
In his brief remarks, the Minister focused on the success of the Williams group, while urging more Barbadians to be risk takers.
He lamented that nationally too much attention was being paid to administrative matters, such adjustments to the tax system.
“I’m far more interested in hearing a conversation about how we are going to drive the cost of Government services down, how we are going to become more efficient, more innovative, and how we are going to reduce that demand and burden on taxpayers of this country, because we have [to have] a far more efficient public sector.
“I want Barbadians to start developing a culture of investment and entrepreneurship,” the Minister added.
Stressing his view that the role of the State should be limited to business facilitation, he said, “We have to forge that partnership between the public and private sector.”
Inniss said his vision was to see Government facilitating at least 60 per cent of renewable enterprises controlled by Barbadians, but cautioned that it was not about providing protectionist measures, “because that often times stifle creativity and innovation”.
Against the backdrop of the international climate conference in Paris, at which Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is leading CARICOM global warming discussions, Inniss also spoke of Barbados’ role in garnering energy from the sun and promoting greater innovation.
“An island like Barbados was in many ways a pioneer in sustainable solar energy. We started way back in the 70s with solar hot water systems,” he said, while stressing the need for innovation.
He noted that with few exceptions, such as the work of Professor Oliver Headley, “we never really sought to create the kind of storage devices and other applications [needed] for solar energy.
“Today we have an opportunity to do that.
“It can’t be just about providing photovoltaic systems on houses around Barbados. It has to be about Barbadians designing storage systems, getting deep into the engineering aspects of it, providing the different types of applications.”
Inniss asserted, “We can only build a renewable industry in Barbados if we invest in training our young people in the field; ensure that the regulatory agencies are properly equipped, staffed and otherwise resourced to do what they have to do; and if you have the buy in from the public at large”.