A strong suggestion was made today that Barbados should revisit the idea of a national development bank, with a view to capitalizing on available international development financing.
It came from Executive Director of the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries (BCSI) Graham Clarke while addressing an entrepreneurship workshop on Capitalizing on the Cultural, Creative and Climate Change Industries, at the BCSI’s Harbour Road, St Michael office.
Quoting the Inter-American Development Bank, he explained that there was an investment gap of about US$650 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean, which “threatens not just the achievement of goal number nine of the Sustainable Development Goals, but all the other 16 goals of that development agenda”.
“So how we can generate wealth as a country and as a region is not only a relevant discussion to have but it is critically urgent at this time if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” Clarke said, while stating that it was critical that Barbados takes advantage of available funding opportunities.
“It is sad that many opportunities for support to critical sectors of our economy go a begging because of inadequate action.
Perhaps we need a national clearinghouse or a portal where all of these opportunities can be logged in a timely fashion for access by our entrepreneurs and support organizations,” Clarke said, while lamenting that oftentime funding requests were made too late, resulting in lost opportunities for businesses.
“The solution to this challenge or this gap is not only linked to external agencies. We must continue to build the internal capacity of our country to generate wealth by investing in the ideas and innovation of our people, particularly the young people,” he said.
“If the traditional banks are not keen to take on the risk of these emerging ideas and innovations then maybe we should consider creating a well capitalized and well managed national development bank – and some will say again – that will give priority to this agenda,” Clarke added.
Back in 2016, entrepreneur Gabriel Abed had called for the reintroduction of an indigenous bank as an answer to the threat of the loss of international correspondent banks, and to satisfy a number of growing local financial needs.
“We don’t have a national bank in Barbados, we have foreign banks. What I would like to see is an update to our Financial Services Act to amend it to include a Part Four type of bank, which can partly fit under the Part One, but particularly as it relates to a payment bank,” Abed said in the face of stricter banking regulations in the United States that have resulted in the withdrawal of international financial houses from the region that act as correspondent banks, enabling persons to conduct cross border transactions.
Abed had said at the time that such a national bank would not allow access to credit, loans, or mortgages, “but provides the payment layers that our consumers will need to have –banking services, ATM, payrolls, bill payment, send and receiving”.
In 2003, the then Owen Arthur-led Barbados Labour Party sold 57 per cent of its interest in the then Barbados National Bank (BNB) to Republic Bank of Trinidad. By 2012 Republic had accumulated 65 per cent stake in BNB, which it then renamed Republic Bank (Barbados), and a year later it acquired the remaining shares from Government.
However, with the economy currently as it is, Clarke insisted that the country simply “cannot afford to leave segments of our national resources pool behind”, adding that “we cannot pick winners and losers in this cause”.
“We have to invest in all. We need to place a higher premium on our local talent in the cultural industries, creative industries and of course, the climate change industries that we are talking about today,” he said.
“I believe we also need to fearlessly tackle the root causes of the persistent underdevelopment that has plagued the country and the rest of the Caribbean economies,” Clarke added.
Thursday’s workshop brought together a number of industry officials to explore ways of maximizing wealth and creating jobs in the areas of climate change and the cultural and creative industries.
Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland said Government’s planned Trust Loan programme, to be implemented in a matter of months, would help to close any existing investment gaps.
This, he said, was coupled with existing loan and grant facilities, adding that Government was aware of the state of the economy and growth would have to be led by the private sector, especially “from the new and non-traditional areas”.
Ahead of today’s Cabinet meeting, Sutherland also said he planned to present the framework for the Trust Loan Fund and to seek approval to implement the scheme.
Just yesterday, he had revealed that online imposters were claiming to be responsible for the programme, and had sought to warn entrepreneurs not to fall victim.