Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Association (SBA) Lynette Holder is urging members to pay up what they owe to the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC).
At the same time, Holder is calling on the BIDC to have a “heart of a development agency” and show some leniency by ensuring it first worked out a payment plan with tenants in an effort to recoup the estimated $15 million it was owed in rent up to December last year.
Her comments came on the heels of news that the BIDC had locked out some tenants at Pelican Village Craft Centre last Friday due to the non-payment of rent.
It was not immediately clear how long the affected tenants had not paid rent to the state agency, or what progress had so far been made by the BIDC in its collection efforts.
When contacted Tuesday, BIDC’s Director of Finance and Properties Division Dwaine Stuart told Barbados TODAY the corporation was not prepared to comment at present, but would provide an update in the future.
However, stating that she was not aware how many of the defaulters were small businesses, Holder said the association had always encouraged members to let their creditors, suppliers, financiers and landlords know if they were experiencing financial challenges so they could agree a mutually beneficial payment plan.
Acknowledging that the estimated $15 million owed up to the end of last year was a significant amount to be on any balance sheet, the small business executive told Barbados TODAY she agreed the corporation should put systems in place to collect the debt, but the BIDC ought to take into account the economic environment and the reason the state agency was established in the first place.
“We don’t advocate running away from your responsibilities and liabilities, that is not good business. I read the article and I am aware of the issue. I am not aware if this clampdown is limited to Pelican or is across all the industrial estates.
“On one hand the concern for us is that we say to small firms, ‘yes, these are harsh economic times we are facing so talk to your creditors, talk to your landlord and put arrangements in place as much as you can’. And on the other side, let me hasten to add that organizations like the BIDC cannot be driven by a commercial cause only. You are a development agency,” Holder insisted.
With the issue going far beyond arrears to include low sales and an apparent lack of promotion of Pelican Village, Holder said while there had been some attempts in the past, she was not satisfied that the area was getting the kind of visibility it needed for the tenants to prosper.
“I think that there is need for a strategic plan on the part of the BIDC. Either we recognize that it has a value added component to bear on our tourism product or we are going to look to redevelop it and do something else with it. But you cannot have these vendors in there and there is no overall strategy and promotional and marketing thrust for the particular area.
“Something now needs to be done. We may need to look at the location, look at how we are ferrying persons to and from the cruise ships, and not only that, the products that are produced there also can be marketed to our locals, but there is a need for a strategy to promote the Pelican Craft Village to make that a viable place to do business,” Holder stressed.