Officials are eager to see Barbados become a world-class economy where small businesses are given more opportunities to grow their operations.
This point was reinforced on Friday as a number of industry leaders joined services sector operators at a Barbados Coalition of Service Industries’ (BCSI) business forum.
Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle said Barbados was now “in a period of re-invention”, adding that there was need for critical investment in a number of areas in order to deliver “rich returns”.
Some of those areas, she said, included education, public health, technology, infrastructure, renewable energy and government operations.
Caddle also pointed out that Government was “committed to the resolution of the LIAT issue”, adding that more affordable and reliable regional air transport was critical to the process of transformation of the Barbados economy and greater integration of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
According to the minister, the process of transformation has already started with some “dramatic changes” being made to the Town and Country Planning Act, the ongoing roll-out of a digital transformation of government systems, and reform of the judicial system to speed up cases, among others.
She also pointed to government’s initiatives aimed at mobilizing savings in the banking system, saying regulatory regimes to develop new types of investment funds centered on small investors would help to drive the needed change in the economy.
“Over the past ten months Barbadians have realized that we are at a tipping point and in a moment of great opportunity and I think that Barbadians have begun to seize their faith,” she said, pointing out that Government had taken the tough decisions to save the Barbados dollar from devaluation and rescue the island’s credit worthiness.
She acknowledged that the journey to recovery was an ongoing one, and it would neither be short nor easy, but achievable.
“Today we remain in choppy waters, we are not out of the deep yet but we are coming ashore. There is a future Barbados, one that is prosperous and successful where people lead the lives they chose and people lead the lives they value. At the centre of that future economy lies Barbadian service providers . . . that is the vision,” she said.
Pledging his organisation’s support for transformation of the Barbados economy, Executive Director of the BCSI Graham Clarke said in order for there to be a transformation of the economy, there needed to first be a mindset change among the population.
In addition, Clarke said there were four main areas that should be addressed to effectively “reposition” Barbados for the future.
“It starts with an awareness campaign,” said Clarke, adding that the change also required stimulation of interest among the population, authorities being more decisive in their decision making, and acting on those decisions once taken.
“To reposition Barbados is to act differently as a nation. In order to act differently we have to think differently,” he said.
Meanwhile, Director of the Barbados Economic Foundation (BEF) Melanie Jones said she saw a need for the private sector to play a greater role in assisting in the transformation of the economy.
“I believe that Barbados’ economic recovery really depends on a proactive involvement of the private sector with Government and other stakeholders,” she said, adding that she believed it was also the private sector’s role “to support the third sector with funding, deployment of management skills, monitoring and voluntarism”.
She said it was also important for the business community to focus more on generating foreign exchange and playing a vital role in helping to “develop human capital” in Barbados.
The attorney-at-law said for Barbados to become a world-class economy “we cannot continue to operate in this severely constrainted environment”. In that vein, she argued that Barbados’ exchange control regime has long been a hindrance to the country becoming a world-class economy.
“I am not sure how we can really become a world-class economy in an environment where the hands of our entrepreneurs and our investors are tied behind their backs as far as dealing in foreign currency is concerned. There is just no way to create investor confidence locally and internationally in a currency-controlled environment,” she explained.
However, Jones welcomed government’s plan to dismantle the foreign exchange regime, saying this would restore the confidence needed and significantly help to transform the ailing economy.