The Barbadian and regional private sector is being urged to be proactive and creative by increasing the number of projects that would qualify for support under the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export).
The call comes from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who is advocating a shift in focus by the private sector from import to export, as a means of earning precious foreign exchange.
Stuart was speaking yesterday at the signing of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) programme at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The agreement between Caribbean Export and the European Union represents a €24 million (BDS$51.6 million) boost to regional private sector development.
The agency, which is an initiative of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) – the grouping of Caribbean Community countries and the Dominican Republic – has the primary objective of increasing the competitiveness of Caribbean countries in the global market. However, in his address, Stuart questioned why Barbadian businesses were slow to take advantage of opportunities available through Caribbean Export.
The Prime Minister made reference to the launch of the 10th EDF, which ran from 2008 to 2013, at which Senator Darcy Boyce had urged the regional private sector to renew its focus towards the growing and marketing of West Indian Sea Island Cotton.
“This could involve rebranding the cotton because of trademark issues, haute couture design by local and well known foreign designers, manufacturing of high valued clothing locally, contract weaving and spinning of cotton. What are the obstacles to doing this, I ask?”
Stuart contended that given the urgent need to generate foreign exchange inflows, even businesses within the retail sector must find innovative ways to become exporters.
“Countries like Barbados need foreign exchange for almost every stage of our production in the various sectors. But if we do not earn it we cannot spend it without serious effects on our entire economy and society. For example, companies in the retail sector – which use a large proportion of foreign reserves in providing the goods that we both need and want – must be creative and explore how they can assist in producing more foreign exchange, through contributing in some way to our export thrust,” Stuart pointed out.
Stating that the region was still recovering from the global recession, the Prime Minister said exporters played a pivotal role in diversifying the recovering economies, and therefore governments must empower this component of the business sector.
“In the end, our local economies will reap the benefits. I think that we can all agree that enabling and strengthening the private sector is the most effective way of ensuring continued economic growth in this region. Governments must do their part, and our Government is actively exploring ways of improving business facilitation and improving our competitiveness.” he added.