The international business sector remains in “watch and wait” mode, as it assesses the potential impact of Government’s fiscal programme, including the Mia Mottley-led administration’s plan to restructure its debt, and impose a number of taxes.
“In terms of the international business sector, I guess we are in watch and wait mode,” Julia Hope, the newly elected president of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), told Barbados TODAY.
“The members that I have spoken to . . . everybody is watching to see where we are going to be in the next three to 12 months, which is the first period that the Prime Minister’s changes will take effect,” she said.
However, Hope said there was a sense of optimism in the sector, and it had not forecasted any impact from the suite of taxes announced by Mottley in her June 11 mini Budget.
Mottley said back then that her administration would review the framework within which the sector operates, “given the blacklisting by the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] and the greylisting by the European Union”.
“We will embark upon measures to boost growth. We will address the proposed growth measures in a comprehensive statement in the coming weeks,” Mottley had said then.
Hope explained that BIBA was in the process of putting together a number of proposals aimed at helping the sector mitigate against any fallout from the new rules within the OECD.
Of particular concern is the base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) rules, designed to tackle those who exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax jurisdictions.
She said Mottley’s Budget was an indication that the Prime Minister was serious about helping to grow the sector, adding that “the communication lines are opened and everybody is willing to listen”.
The new BIBA head said the OECD rules would fundamentally change the way business is conducted here, and a task force set up by the association earlier this year would continue to work closely with Government to keep Barbados off the blacklist in future.
“We are working with Government to come up with the solutions. That means we shouldn’t be blacklisted again. That really is the biggest challenge we have. Those proposals need to go to the Prime Minister by the end of July. We have to agree and thrash out what is acceptable with the OECD,” Hope said as she outlined some of her plans for the sector.
“We do need to look at things in a new way. We are being forced to do that with the OECD. So it does bring a sea of change that is welcomed because it is an opportunity for us to all examine the way we are currently operating and what we can do better,” she said.
Hope said the sector would seek to forge closer ties with Government and other stakeholders, beginning with a meeting soon with new Minister of International Business and Industry Ronald Topin, to tackle head-on, challenges expected this year.
“We have to really look at things in a new way and try to capitalize on some of the opportunities we have got. And we feel that we have got a Government that is interested in change and making the foreign exchange,” Hope said, adding that there were “huge” opportunities in the area of Fintech and blockchain technology, as well as medical marijuana.
“We haven’t had indepth discussions yet in terms of some of the potential opportunities but constantly we’ve got members talking and speaking about some of the things they would like to be doing,” Hope stated, while adding the sector was also keen on having immigration guidelines for special entry work permits for wealthy individuals finalized so that the sector could capitalize on the pending changes that will come after Britain leaves the European Union.