Leader of Government Business in the Senate Maxine McClean today accused the private sector of not being innovative enough to help turn around the island’s ailing economy.
Leading off debate this morning on the 2017 Appropriations Bill, McClean said although the sector had benefited from significant Government support, the local business community had not been “as assertive and indeed as innovative” as it could have been.
For example, she said there was hardly anything creative coming from the private sector at meetings of the Social Partnership, on how to improve the island’s economic situation.
“When I sat, on more than one occasion, at meetings of the Social Partnership, anticipating the suggestions from the private sector, for example, as to how they were going to contribute to the restructuring of this economy, I came away not hearing what I expected to hear, or what I needed to hear,” McClean said.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs made reference to the annual World Flower Show to be held here in June, charging that the lack of interest by local flower arrangers was an example of private sector “short-sightedness”.
“About a year and a half ago it was drawn to my attention that there will be a conference of flower arrangers in Barbados, bringing people from 30-something countries. One of the organizers said to me that they were trying desperately to encourage flower producers in Barbados to ramp up their production and they did not get the kind of enthusiastic response that you would get.
“It was ironic because some person said ‘we are satisfied with our business’. And that to my mind was kind of strange. Somebody else said, ‘but if we increase production what will we do after the event?’ But I thought that we import a lot of flowers, so they could be substituted for imports,” McClean told the Senate.
“The long and short is Madam President, is now the organizers are faced with the reality that they are being told by local producers, ‘sorry we can’t supply you, we have to focus on our traditional customers,’” she added.
McLean told the Upper House she had raised the matter with her counterpart in Cuba two weeks ago at a meeting of Caribbean Community Foreign Ministers, “to ask [him] to explore some opportunities” for the upcoming show.
She said it was an example of Government being forced to intervene in an area the private sector should have been able to address.
McClean said however, that she was pleased that many young people had been coming up with innovative ideas to contribute to the economy.
“I’m seeing a lot of people using technology to solve a lot of problems, to create opportunities for themselves. One area that I would want to highlight is the area of renewable energy … not simply the generation of electricity for electricity’s sake, but the application of renewable techniques in agriculture, for example,” she stated.