A top official of one of this island’s leading conglomerates says while there are still many positive features to Barbados, the ease of doing business is certainly not one of them.
“There are so many fundamentally strong parts of Barbados, fantastic education, the rule of law, the process is generally followed, there is a high degree of talent here, but it’s not easy doing business,” cautioned Tom Hall, chief executive officer of the Williams Industries.
Participating in a panel discussion hosted by the Barbados International Business Association at the Central Bank’s Grand Salle last night, Hall took particular issue with the recent 400 per cent hike in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) on the customs value of imported and locally produced goods, which was announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in his May 30 Budget.
In fact, he said the entire Budget had come as “a shock”, while the NSRL, which formed part of a $542 million austerity package, has had the effect of making the domestic business environment more difficult.
“It makes it very hard to trade in those circumstances. You get not only the increased costs . . . but just trading in this environment is very difficult,” Hall said, while further cautioning that “you can’t change something so radically without warning.
“That makes people nervous. I’m going to be more nervous going into the next Budget,” he said.
The CEO of the 22-company conglomerate also complained that amid low foreign reserves and tighter exchange controls, Williams Industries was struggling to get access to hard currency to expand its operations.
“So it’s a major risk and with risk comes a reduction in demand for that investment,” Hall said, while assuring, “we have a lot of interested parties wanting to work with us”.