Government is preparing a National Industrial Policy which will seek to revive the manufacturing sector, Minister of International Business and Industry, Ronald Toppin has said.
Following a tour of the booths at BMEX 2019 yesterday, Toppin told reporters the first draft of the policy is expected to be ready by September, and finalised before the end of the current financial year in March 2020.
Toppin praised the exhibits at the June 7-10 event, but he lamented the decline of the local manufacturing sector.
“We’ve seen a significant decline in the fortunes of the sector, certainly over the last decade or so, when you look at the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector; the number of companies in the sector, the level of investment in the sector; or the contribution of the sector to our Gross Domestic Product. All of them have declined significantly over the last ten years or so,” he said.
He added that talks are ongoing between government and local manufacturers, and there are plans for a national consultation in the coming months to hear their concerns.
He also acknowledged there are several challenges facing manufacturers, particularly the area of access to financing.
“Our objective in all this is to ensure we have a very highly competitive, financially strong manufacturing sector, we can move to boost our domestic exports significantly, create large numbers of employees again in the sector, earn foreign exchange, increase import substitution, put the country’s development on a more sustainable footing through our manufacturing sector’s improved performance, and of course deal with the issue of the alleviation of poverty,” Toppin said.
He noted that government is also aiming at two new industries particularly in ICT and pharmaceuticals.
“Pharmaceuticals also offer a wonderful opportunity for us to attract a big player. In fact, we’ve already been approached by a big pharmaceutical entity, and we expect to begin negotiations with that entity in the very, very near future,” he said.
The minister also pointed to the significant decline in the apparel industry, which once employed an estimated 4,000 people at its peak, but as of May last year there were only 300 employees on record in that sector.
“And that is an industry, or a subsector that employs 85 per cent women. So you can understand how single mothers and so on would have been hit with the decline of that sector. So we want to see that back again up full strength,” he told reporters.
Toppin noted however, that despite the challenges there are ongoing projects aimed at boosting exports.
“And the one that I find very appealing is the rolling out of the Accelerate 2020 project where the BIDC [Barbados Industrial Development Corporation] is working with 20 companies to round them up to a certain level of production where they can actually generate more than $3 million in export earnings per year.
“There are currently 21 entities on the books of BIDC that already earn more than $3 million a year in [exports]. And there are some 20 that earn over $500,000 a year in export earnings. So the objective is to boost the ones earning over $3 million to even more, and bring some that are earning only $500,000 up to the $3 million level,” he said. (MCW)