President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed, today criticised the current go-slow at the island’s ports of entry, saying it was “beyond understanding” that such action would be taken during the busiest time of the year for the business community.
The protest action is into its second weekend, after pay negotiations broke down yesterday between the National Union of Public Workers and management of the Grantley Adams International Airport.
“This is a country that has one industry that is growing, which is tourism, that the entire country is depending on and you are going to sabotage that by slowing down the processes at the airport. I find that beyond understanding.
“The months of November and December represent anywhere between 75 to 80 per cent of our retail stores’ turnover, so I don’t need to tell you how critical this time of the year is and if you have anything that can even begin to interfere with that, it causes some repercussions for taxes, for employment, for profitability. To me it’s just staggering. We’re very keen to see this resolved, we’re extremely frustrated because the solution is out of our hands,” Abed said.
He added that the BCCI expects a good final quarter once the issue is resolved, but that also depends on the tourist season.
“If we have a good season, I think you’re going to see some very positive spin offs which is also extremely well for the country. If we don’t have a good season then equally the opposite is true, I think you will see another tough year and the questionability of the profitability of businesses … is going to come into sharp focus.”
Relaying the frustrations of business persons who have been affected by the go-slow, Abed stated: “People have laid out money for goods, it’s sitting in the port, it should be in their stores for sale and the longer they wait is lost opportunities that they will not regain. They are not going to regain the opportunity to sell so it’s frustrating.”
He advised business owners to be patient and “try to bear the situation as best as they can”.
Abed was speaking on the sidelines of ‘Folklore Day’, which was hosted by his Swan Street store, where traditional characters such as Mother Sally, the nut seller and the Tuk band came out to play this morning as the island celebrates its 50th Independence anniversary.
Store manager Suzette Layne said the Folklore Day was one of the events being held this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary.
Bridgetown patrons and shoppers not only took in the sights and sounds of the extravaganza but were treated to local confectionery from the employees who were dressed in traditional folk wear.
Abed, who is the managing director of the store, said the jubilee celebration provided an extra injection into the island’s slow economy.
“It has been a hard year so for any business who has ramped up for this, who has gone out of their way to accommodate and cater for this, they rightly deserve any returns that they can get because it has been a hard year,” Abed said.