Barbados’s premier trade show has become the first major victim of the tough austerity measures introduced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler when he delivered the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals on Tuesday.
A number of the leading local manufacturers have pulled out of this year’s Barbados Manufacturers’ Exhibition (BMEX) at the last minute, blaming the Budget which was approved in the early hours of Friday morning following a contentious debate.
President of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) Jason Sombrano said the morale of the business community, especially the established entities, had taken a hit following the announcement of the tough fiscal measures.
“Obviously coming off from the Budget there are the individuals who feel a little challenged in regards to what is coming in terms of the fiscal policies,” Sambrano told Barbados TODAY following the launch of BMEX 2017 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this morning.
In his latest effort to drag the economy from the brink, Sinckler announced that the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) introduced last September would rise from two per cent to ten per cent.
He also announced a two per cent commission on foreign exchange transactions, along with excise duty increases of 24 cents on diesel and 25 cents on gasoline, all aimed at reducing demand for foreign exchange and lowering the fiscal deficit, which stood at six per cent as at the end of 2016, higher than the anticipated 5.8 per cent.
Many economic pundits have since agreed that the $218 million which the NSRL is expected to bring in this financial year means there will be less money circulating to spur economic activity.
It is in light of this grim prospect that some of the more established businesses, either as an emotional reaction or cost saving measure, chose to withdraw from the trade show.
Of the 160 exhibitors at this weekend’s event, 40 are relatively new commercial enterprises, some of which were slotted into the spots left vacant due to the withdrawal of the longstanding participants.
Sombrano cautioned the business community that now was not the time to roll over and play dead, insisting that the positive entities would be the ones to weather the economic storm.
“For the most part we have to stay positive because any good company knows that you still need to expose the company and it is during difficult times that the investment that you make could redound in benefits when the country gets on a more stable economic platform. So while there is the initial knee-jerk reaction to the disappointment by some companies, I think there is a wider prospect of hope and I would really want to promote that,” Sombrano said.
The BMA chief chose to adopt an optimistic approach to the pull-out, saying the participation of newer companies with new products and innovations would refresh the event.
“This year as I mentioned the more pronounced and bigger of our exhibitors who would normally be here each year are not here, but we obviously filled up those gaps with some new exhibitors. So I don’t think there is much of a decline in participants this year.
“I think it would be very exciting to see what they [the new exhibitors] bring to the table. I think there would be a lot of new samples, so I want to people to come out and be assured that they would not be seeing the same things from last year. Even with the economic situation we still had a lot of interest and a lot of manufacturers still see it as pivotal show,” he added.