Rent arrears to Government’s industrial development agency has skyrocketed by 50 per cent in the last two years despite Government’s pleas for small businesses to pay up, Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss has revealed.
Inniss told last night’s Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) awards ceremony and dinner at the Hilton Barbados Resort, tenants owe $15 million in arrears to the agency responsible for promoting and facilitating the establishment and expansion of business here, up from $10 million in 2014.
And he warned debtors unless they meet their financial commitments to the BIDC the quality of service they received would deteriorate.
“You have a duty to pay your rent and to pay soon,” he said
“If you don’t pay your rent, the corporation may find it difficult to insure the building which you occupy. When you turn up the next morning and find that your place has been broken into, it is the same corporation that you will say should have had security on the premises.
“When the toilet is not working well it is the same staff at the BIDC who we have to pay to respond to these things,” he said.
Insisting that the BIDC needed every penny that it was owed, the minister contended that the 60-year-old state corporation was much more than a landlord.
“Many people still like to associate the BIDC with charging rents and owning industrial estates. The organization can attest to contributing as much as $500 million in exports from the island on an annual basis,” Inniss maintained.
He said with the agency experiencing a cash-flow problem, it would be forced to divest some of its assets.
“I have given the board the task of disposing of some of the non-performing assets of the entity, a way of shedding some of the burden, and achieving a level of cash-flow to be sustained, and less dependent on the state,” he announced.
Two years ago, when he addressed the issue of arrears, Inniss had said an analysis was needed to determine why delinquent tenants were unable to pay and to “see what can be done to assist” them.
He had also expressed a belief that most entrepreneurs were willing to make an effort to pay their bills, but they might fall behind because they were waiting for refunds from Government.
“So it cuts both ways. So whilst I say those who are tenants must pay and should pay I am always mindful there are a few instances where the difficulty is understood,” he said then.
BIDC manages about 12 industrial estates comprising 70 commercial buildings. In addition, there are eight buildings that house more than 20 craft shops and a restaurant. In total there are more than 300 separate units in the corporation’s buildings.