Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is accusing private sector companies that earn foreign exchange of keeping a lot of their earnings offshore.
He pointed the accusing finger at business operators while stating that if they were bringing in more foreign exchange into the country Government would not be forced to borrow as much as it did currently.
“Bring some more money on board. Let us see some more of the foreign exchange coming in so that we don’t have to borrow as much and we can have a more consistent supply. The truth is some people may say that has to do with confidence, maybe it does, but I still think that on the basis of what we are seeing, people can pull their weight a little bit more than they have been doing in that particular regard,” he said as he led off debate in Parliament this morning on the 2017 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
Recently Acting President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Edward Clarke expressed “grave concern” about the country’s high deficit and falling foreign reserves.
“We were quite shocked yesterday to see the Central Bank’s report that our foreign reserves were at an extremely low level – $681 million or approximately 10.3 weeks cover . . . our foreign reserves are of grave concern to us all as Barbadians and as businesses in Barbados. We cannot allow this slide to continue,” Clarke had told the first BCCI’s luncheon for the year at the Hilton Barbados Resort on January 26.
Last month the Barbados Private Sector Association also said it was “deeply concerned” about the current state of the economy and it called for urgent short-term solutions to be implemented at the level of the Social Partnership.
However, candidly addressing the issue this morning, Sinckler recommended that the island’s two largest private sector groupings stop expressing concern and bring “tangible, demonstrable” solutions to the table.
“When the private sector groups meet, and I know they meet fairly often to discuss recommendations of how Government can boost foreign exchange earnings in Barbados, I want it to be prominently featured among their discussions in their groupings that they can come back to Government with tangible, demonstrable recommendations as to how they are going to get their members who earn foreign exchange to bring more of it on island,” Sinckler said.
“I am sending out that call to head of the [Barbados] Private Sector Association and the head of the Chamber of Commerce. Don’t only tell us about how concerned you are about how low the reserves are, tell us about how concerned you are that not enough foreign exchange earned by Barbadian companies are being brought into the island.”
Though not providing evidence to substantiate the claim, Sinckler said he simply did not believe “the bulk” of the foreign exchange being earned by private sector companies was making its way into the system.
However, he made it clear that “there is some foreign exchange we don’t want because we don’t want any from money laundering or any nefarious activities.
“We don’t want any Nigerian money either. What we want is good, clean foreign exchange that is earned legitimately. We don’t want any hanky-panky stuff around here.
“If there are vast amounts being held outside of Barbados, bring a little bit more and help the country out,” he stressed.