With local manufacturers facing a number of challenges including high taxes and changes to international trade, officials are calling on policymakers to develop new policies to help save the declining sector.
President of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) Robert Noel said the proliferation of new technology was also creating a need for new and improved skill sets.
He said it was therefore necessary for lawmakers to work closer with stakeholders to develop new policies to help guide the expansion of the sector.
“Government’s accountability to the sector is crucial. Currently, the sector has been facing many challenges with the various increases in taxes, customs matters and international requirements which are making it expensive to do business, to name a few,” Noel told the official launch of the 2019 Barbados Manufacturers’ Exhibition (BMEX) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Wednesday.
“Nevertheless, we acknowledge the dialogue Government is having with the sector and we hope that this open-door policy can result in meaningful decisions that will work in the favour of manufacturers,” he added.
Noel said the BMA would be doing what it could by working closely with the Barbados Vocational Training Board, TVET and other institutions “to move manufacturing forward”.
The BMA president said in an effort to contribute to rebuilding the Barbados economy it was important that “cross sectoral linkages” were formed so that “as one sector grows, it assists another sector’s development”.
This year, organizers of the BMEX showcase have partnered with the Barbados Coalition of Services Industries (BCSI) to showcase the products and services of more of the island’s cultural industries operators.
The annual BMEX showcase will be held from June 7-10 under the theme The Rebirth of Pride and Industry.
Technical Advisor for Investment and the Private Sector at the CARICOM Secretariat Joel Richards said he believed the “death of manufacturing” in Barbados and the region was exaggerated, but there was still cause for concern due to the dramatic decline over the years.
Citing data from the Central Bank of Barbados, Richards said the sector’s contribution to the island gross domestic product had fallen from double digits to around six per cent in recent times.
“Notwithstanding the relative decline of the sector, I am still of the view that manufacturing remains crucial to the development of small island developing states like ours,” he said.
However, he warned that in order for the manufacturing sector to make a greater contribution to the development of Barbados and the wider Caribbean community, several changes must take place.
Chief among them, he said, was the embracing of new technology and the development of targeted industrial policies.
“In light of the rapidly changing circumstances of our region and the wider world, we need a new approach to industrial policy that is distinct from the almost exclusive export-led model that was touted several decades ago,” he cautioned.
He explained that the new policy should be based on advanced skills, innovation, supporting institutions, environmental goals and social policies, where incentives, energy efficiency and reform of the education system are featured.
Richards also called on authorities to “think global”, pointing out that recent export data showed that Barbados’ participation in world trade had been too sporadic.
“There has been hardly any sustained year-on-on year growth in exports. Between 2014 and 2018, exports declined, by value, 4.8 per cent and between 2016 and 2018 the decline was a more drastic 11 per cent,” he said.