A leading retail furniture and appliance store says it is simply not daunted by Barbados’ ongoing economic troubles, which have been highlighted by a ballooning national debt in excess of 100 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), a high fiscal deficit of over five per cent of GDP and dwindling international reserves of less than $600 million at the end of September.
Speaking at the opening of its newest store at the Millhouse Complex in Cane Garden, St Thomas on Friday, Deputy Managing Director of Standard Distributors Ltd Trinidad Kathleen Galy said the close to half a million investment by the Trinidad-based ANSA McAL group was proof enough of its support for, and “full confidence” in, the island.
Galy explained that the company had completed renovations on ten of its 14 stores in the region with plans of completing upgrades to the remaining four while carrying out further expansion in the Caribbean in 2018.
While giving the assurance that the conglomerate’s investment would continue in Barbados despite the current economic climate, Galy also promised to maintain the high quality customer service that the brand had become synonymous with over the years.
“Over the last four years Standard Barbados has taken on an entirely new face – newly renovated stores, new warehouse, new management team, all 100 per cent geared to customer service and delivering the quality we are known for,” the company spokeswoman said.
“It is indeed a privilege and one in which we at Standard are deeply appreciative of, and I make the public declaration today that Standard Barbados, a member of the ANSA McAL Barbados Group of companies, will continue to invest and show commitment to Barbados and faith in the improvement of the economic climate here,” she declared.
Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss welcomed the investment, saying it was an indication that the private sector continued to invest, despite naysayers.
At the same time, the outspoken Government minister warned that there was simply too much unnecessary pessimism in the country.
“Standard has thought it necessary to invest in the Barbados brand and its people for providing this new location and exciting products,” he said, adding “let me on behalf of the Prime Minister and Government of Barbados thank the entire ANSA McAL Group for the confidence you have in this economy and its people”.
“Last week I opened the new Super Centre in Holetown which was a $45 million investment in this country,” said Inniss, adding that he was not interested in where the company was based or the origin of the shareholders.
“The fact remains that if others from outside can have this level of confidence in our economy and people, we must so do it too as a Government and a society,” he stressed.
Inniss was also insistent that the sustainable development of the country should be led by the private sector, adding that “the pure socialist ideology that some others may spout is as irrelevant today in my eyes as the kerosene stove that Standard perhaps would have sold 40 years ago.
“The creativity, nimbleness, aggressiveness and determination of private enterprise is key for the resuscitation and growth of the Barbados economy,” he said, adding that Standard could serve as an example to other enterprises here.
Inniss also used the occasion to call for a higher level of transparency across the public and the private sectors, while reiterating his call for stakeholders to thrive towards transforming the country into a 24-hour society.
He also warned the public sector to be careful not to “smother” potential private investors that were seeking to do business here.