Uncertainty surrounding the general election date is taking a toll on the country’s investment climate, according to one senior banker.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Republic Bank (Barbados) Ltd Anthony Clerk said potential investors had pulled back and were in a “wait-and-see” mode as Barbadians await a poll date.
“Around this time – pre and post elections – you would find there is a lull. There is a sort of wait-and-see attitude. So we are seeing some of that,” Clerk told Barbados TODAY in a wide-ranging interview.
In addition to the indecision linked to the election, the banker also singled out the economy for a reluctance by investors to put their money into projects here.
“Those circumstances would lead to a reduction in what would normally be a higher level of investment,” he said.
Clerk said there was “still relatively good demand” for mortgages, although, he said, even this had diminished.
He also said there were several opportunities for investment, most of which concentrated on tourism sector, with some in the renewable energy sector, albeit on a small scale.
“Barbados has traditionally been a tourist destination and I think that we have some level of advantage in that area. So I think we should continue. Barbados is a relatively safe country with a stable political climate [and] a good quality of education. So those are some of the positive areas that will continue and the concentration in tourism has held Barbados in relatively good stead over a number of years. So I believe they should continue that area,” he said.
The banking executive recommended that the country be positioned as a high-end destination, with a strong focus on medical and health care tourism.
“That would be a good advantage. Barbados is a good place to recuperate,” he added.
Pointing out that financial institutions here were “ready and willing” to back a number of investments, Clerk said he also saw tremendous potential for investments in retirement homes and assisted living “for both residents [since] Barbados is an aging population . . . but also tied into tourism and foreign visitors”.
The banker of more than three decades, who took up his current position in October last year, said he was most concerned about the island’s poor ranking in the World Bank Doing Business 2018 Report, in which Barbados is ranked 132nd, down from the 119th in the 2016 report. The country was not ranked in the 2017 report.
“We are going in the wrong direction,” he said of the island’s performance.
“So one of the things I would like to see is the whole ease of doing business being improved and Government laying the foundation to facilitative framework for the private sector led growth, that is a very important initiative that must happen,” Clerk stressed.