Local manufacturers are said to be eagerly awaiting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s announcement of the date for fresh elections, with the newly-elected president of the Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA) Robert Noel expressing concern that the longer he takes to ring the bell, the more difficult it is becoming for members of the sector to stay afloat.
The general elections is due here within the next two months, but the Prime Minister has already warned that the poll could go right down to the wire, following the automatic dissolution of Parliament on March 6.
With the situation as it stands, Noel told Barbados TODAY there was “still the uncertainty of what is going to happen with the elections here . . . and how best we can, shall I say, navigate whatever is coming”.
At the same time, he strongly lamented that little was currently forthcoming from Government in terms of relief from the contentious National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which was increased last July from two to ten per cent on the customs value of locally manufactured and imported goods.
Since its introduction, the Small Business Association and several manufacturers have been calling on Government to repeal the tax or to make some adjustments.
However, no such relief has been forthcoming, with Noel, who took over as BMA head in February, hoping t the upcoming election will usher in the needed change.
“There has not been much change as far as the NSRL is concerned. I am not sure what will happen in the near future. Hopefully there will be some changes with that,” he told Barbados TODAY, while stressing that “we need to have that actually [the NSRL] off so that we can become more competitive with what is coming in from outside, especially from nations like China and the United States, where they have subsidized products that come in and can be basically 100 per cent, 20 per cent or 40 per cent or whatever it is, cheaper than we can produce it in Barbados”.
He also emphasized the need to “revitalize our industry from the farmers right back up through the whole chain”, as well as to improve productivity.
“We are definitely going to be looking to help our manufacturing side to beef up what we need to beef up; meet with the appropriate authorities at the different governmental organizations to try and get them the help they need to get to the next level. Those who are just the beginning parts who need more attention, those who are at that point who need to be more export ready if that is where they need to be,” he explained.
Among his ideas for breathing new life into the struggling manufacturing sector, is to get more small manufacturers to join the organization in an effort to help them grow and become exporters, while providing more technical assistance to BMA members. (MM)