There is still too much bureaucracy and inconsistency in Government and this is affecting both international and local investors, warns Government Minister Donville Inniss.
Speaking in Parliament today during debate on 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, Inniss, who is the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, said there was a need to address “structural deficiencies” in Government, which he said were currently affecting the island’s economy, as well as its international ranking in terms of places for doing business
“I am satisfied that the solutions to our economic challenges lie not in about borrowing or taxing or whatever. It lies in getting our administration right,” said Inniss, who singled out the Immigration department as area of frustration.
Inniss said “almost every day” complaints were received due to the inconsistent application of policies, which stood to “scare investors off” and to create the impression that the island was “very unfriendly”.
Though stressing that he was not attacking any particular department, Inniss said many complaints were also received from investors who had documents “sitting in Government departments” waiting for approvals, including Town & Country Planning department.
“We have to be candid about these matters and I am not blaming any ministers,” said Inniss.
“But the ministers must go forth, the shoe may be on the other foot at some point in time. But when you have applications before some Government departments and you cannot get a response or an acknowledgement . . . and you have to wait six months and 18 months down the line, a project that may very well generate 200 job, bring significant foreign exchange into this country is still sitting on somebody’s desk,” Innis warned.
“Quite frankly . . . this is the reality I face,” the minster said.
However, he said “these things are not going to be reflected in financial statements or budgetary statements of expenditure on Government side”, adding, “regardless of whether it is the Democratic Labour Party or the Barbados Labour Party there is a need for us to continue restructure our systems”.
However, Inniss said there were some individuals who felt that if they raised the issue they would be victimized or their file would “go on file 13 or be hidden away in a draw”.
He therefore called for a change in the culture and attitude of Barbadians as a whole, saying “until you start to address some of these fundamental dysfunctional structures we have we are going to be forever coming in here every March having these kinds of arguments and realize that Barbados is not moving forward.
“I am not saying the public officers have bad intent or that they are wicked or bad, there are structural deficiencies in the system in the way in which they are to work,” he explained.
He also singled out the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), saying that while it was commendable that taxes were now being filed online, adding that a similar system should be in place in other departments to correct the “fiasco” associated with getting business done, including renewing a driver’s licence or registering a vehicle at the Licencing Authority.
Inniss also criticized the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) saying that while it had poured cold water over what was being done by Government, it had failed to present any alternative solutions.