The manufacturing sector is poised to play a significant role in the future growth of Barbados’ economy. However, some key changes must be made in order for this to be achieved, officials say.
Addressing the official opening of the annual Barbados Manufacturers Exhibition (BMEX) showcase at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre last evening, University of the West Indies lecturer in management studies Dr Paul Pounder warned that it could not be business as usual in terms of the sector’s “mindset”.
Highlighting technological transformation and competitive labour costs, Pounder said manufacturers “must believe and get on board with these changes” if the sector is to play an important role in the future of Barbados’ economy.
“The state of manufacturing needs to be as resilient and as robust as ever,” said Pounder, as he called for increased and sustainable investment from both Government and private sector, which he said was “very crucial if we are to realize the strategic objective of creating jobs and inclusively growing Barbados’ economy.
“This investment is of paramount importance especially in the context where our country continues to appear to be wrought by the reality of an investment strike. It should be advocated that a significant increase in private sector investment and competitiveness is needed in the wider economy,” he said.
Also addressing the BMEX opening, Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss said it was critical that manufacturers “think and act outside of the box”.
While acknowledging that the sector continued to have its challenges, Inniss argued that within those challenges were opportunities, as he suggested three areas of focus – research and data collection; innovation; and examination and penetration of new markets.
President of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) Jason Sambrano said as far he was concerned a lack of business facilitation remained one the major challenges facing the sector.
“Some of the areas we would like to see improved [are] the time taken for materials to be processed through the Port and Customs; access to financing; and Government policy, which provide assistance in a competitive environment.
“We still look to our Government partners to increase their speed in providing requisite statutory approvals, concessions and incentives where necessary and possible,” he added.
The BMA President said partnerships were also key to the sector’s development, while lamenting that too often the importance of manufacturing to the local economy was underestimated.
He noted that manufacturing was critical to job creation and reducing the leakage of foreign currency, adding that “as a sector we are looking at improving our operational efficiencies and developing strategic alliances and partnerships which promote success and sustainability”.