Barbados is in need of “urgent leadership” from next year as it is no longer the country to look up to in the Caribbean, according to a noted member of the business community.
Looking back at 2016 during which the country celebrated its Golden Jubilee, President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed said it was only normal that Barbadians would reflect on the hard work, sacrifices and nationalistic pride exhibited by citizens over the last 50 years that brought the country to the current level of development.
However, he said Barbados could no longer boast of being the best because a lot of the progress had been reversed.
“Our level of development, education and productivity, when compared to other Caribbean nations, are no longer the gold standard. The gains of our forefathers are being eroded by a lack of entrepreneurship and inertia, as far too many are enjoying a level of entitlements Barbados can no longer sustain,” said Abed in this month’s edition of the association’s Chamber Biz newsletter.
Stating that modern societies were built on information, industrious and well-educated workers, access to finance and a productive and efficient private and public sector, Abed said if any of those ingredients went awry “the equation falters and the results are anarchy”.
“Timely and decisive leadership encourages confidence and ensures growth for the benefit of all citizens. Barbados needs urgent leadership in 2017 and beyond to rescue us from ‘more of the same’ to ‘punching above our weight,’” he wrote.
“I’ve seen a level of frustration growing this year as the information regarding our economy, our morality and our ethics seem to suggest that they are perpetually declining as violence, crime and industrial unrest are growing faster than weeds! Ours is a destination for tourists and international business, which will choose to spend their hard-earned money elsewhere or worse, invest in other jurisdictions,” Abed warned.
The business leader said the prolonged effects of indecision by Government on matters relating to the merging of state enterprises, privatization or public/private sector partnerships, were evident this year “as the citizens and visitors to this country are subjected to poorly maintained roads, buses and both sewerage and delivery of potable water infrastructure”.
“Sadly this will only worsen as Central Government is asked to do more with less resources,” he stated, adding that all stakeholders had a responsibility agree measures to address the problems and establish an oversight committee to ensure agreed solutions are adhered to.
In a further analysis of 2016, the business executive said the Chamber continued its advocacy in relation to concerns such as the difficulty in doing business and refunds from the Barbados Revenue Authority. He said the BCCI also recommended a number of catalysts to revive the economy, “specifically with a focus towards enterprises that could both earn and or save foreign exchange as well as create jobs”.
Looking ahead, Abed said the BCCI remained optimistic about next year’s prospects, adding that he was confident that once large capital projects were mobilized they would create significant employment opportunities and impact positively on local businesses.
He also called for “mature and sober decisions” in consultation with the Social Partnership regarding a number of issues, including means testing, user fees and Government’s subsidies.
He added that he was confident that “our perennially poor standing” in the ease of doing business would be tackled head-on by the introduction of incentives for those who meet and surpass industry standard.