Government needs to do more to encourage people to become investors and create “a Barbados that works for Barbadians”, president of the Barbados Economic Society (BES) Simon Naitram has urged.
But he also suggested the Government should concentrate first on growing the domestic economy in a bid to satisfy home-grown demand for goods and services, rather than be an economic engine for foreign capital.
The economist contended that Barbados would be able to attract more foreign capital once mechanisms are put in place for Barbadians to invest and become successful business owners.
He was speaking during the annual panel discussion of the CFA Society of Barbados at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination on Wednesday night on the topic Where Global Intersects Local.
Naitramam said: “Barbados needs to be global, Barbados needs to be open, Barbados needs to be warm, and Barbados need to be welcoming. For a tiny island like Barbados to thrive we have to engage the world around us.”
For the country to prosper better policies must be developed that govern accessibility of public transport and housing, how non-residents are treated, how work permits are issued, and how taxes are applied on travelling, he declared.
He said: “Is our place in the global economy to be satellites of foreign investors? For a long time our growth strategy seems to have been to attract foreign investors to set up businesses aimed at serving foreign customers so we can get foreign cash to buy foreign goods.”
But Naitram said the past decade had shown that a satellite strategy was unlikely to be a sustainable one because it was “very vulnerable” to global shocks.
“Our standard of living can be devastated at the whim of either foreign investors or foreign consumers. We need a Barbados economy designed to benefit Barbadians. We need Barbadian investment in Barbadian businesses,” he said.
He said in order to achieve that several issues first had to be addressed including making it easier to start a business and making it easier for the average Barbadian to grow his or her business.
Pointing to the approximately $9.1 billion in the banking system, the BES president said savers needed to be connected with businesses, and to do so required “a functioning capital market”.
He said: “This strategy would create inclusive growth, it would make the economy diverse, it would encouraged innovation, it would make the economy resilient to international shocks and most importantly it would make Barbados a better place to live.
“We need an overall economic strategy that makes us resilient. We first need an economy that is designed to serve us then we need to know how to respond when bad things happen – how do we weather the impending storms of Brexit or Trump’s trade wars?
“We have to both make ourselves less vulnerable to external shocks by investing in ourselves and we need to figure out a good plan for when those shocks actually come.
“I think if we can make a Barbados that works for Barbadians then people and businesses will come. They will want to operate here, work here and live here. Barbados will become open, warm and welcoming when it is a paradise for Barbadians.”
Vice President of Investment at Sagicor Asset Management Dexter Moe said he believed there was need for a more developed capital market that catered to all residents.
He agreed people needed to invest in various industries rather than having their money sitting on commercial bank accounts.
Pointing to some funding schemes in place for the development of small businesses, Moe said “the question therefore evolves to one of linkages – how do we link entrepreneurs with the providers of capital in a way that Government is the facilitator but not necessarily the sponsor?”
In his contribution, economist Dr Clyde Mascoll said Government was in the process of making it easier to conduct business here through legislative changes, the planned crowd funding platform and peer-to-peer lending, as well as the development of the junior stock market.
Mascoll also agreed that the doing business environment needed to be improved.
“So we are looking at that now going forward,” said Mascoll.