Appalling and untrue!
That is how organisers of the annual Barbados Manufacturers’ Exhibition (BMEX) have described the comments made by Leader of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Verla De Peiza published in another section of the press.
According to that story, De Peiza said it was a “shame and disgrace” that the exhibitors were forced to be outside “in the elements” because of the presence of the Ross University School of Medicine.
However, in a somewhat hastily-called media conference late this afternoon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, BMA officials explained that the exhibitors outside have always been there except for about two of them because of the products that they were showcasing this year.
In fact, officials said far from having any negative impact on the showcase, the presence of the university had its benefits, with students supporting the event and providing some medical services.
In a clear-the-air statement, coordinator of BMEX 2019 Wendy Burke said she was not surprised that “fake news” had come the way of BMEX.
“BMA and BMEX have always had outdoor booths. The difference between last year and this year is that Ross is present. The Barbados Conference Services Limited has been working with us every step of the way to ensure that our exercise did not wane in terms of its quality or the support they could give to manufacturers,” said Burke.
“Our Executive Director Ms [Shardae] Boyce was on tour with Ms De Peiza and she expressed satisfaction with some of what she saw, so we all found it a bit appalling and alarming this morning to see the information out there because she had the prime opportunity to ask any question she wanted during that two-hour tour she was on with us and she did no such thing,” said Burke.
Burke also explained that the children were placed in zones to visit the location because of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation’s (BIDC) buyers’ programme.
“Over the last three years that the BIDC has been doing it, there have been some concerns about them being able to see the booths and pay as much attention to them because of the swarm of school children we usually have,” she explained, while pointing out that the volunteers from the University of the West Indies were meticulous in their duties.
Children from the north visited the location during the first two hours and schools from the south went after.
Burke further pointed out that neither the exhibitors nor patrons expressed any concern about the university being at the location.
“So I am not too sure where all of the discomfort came from. I am not too sure how the issue of pushing out came because all of the exhibitors were here, they came, they made their money over the three days, they met with the foreign buyers and did their trade and all of us are happy that we had an incident-free BMEX 2019,” said Burke.
Chairman of the Barbados Conference Services Limited, operators of the LESC, Dean Straker said they tried their best to facilitate all the tenants and users of the location.
He reported that the university had reduced the space by only about five to seven per cent.
“This was not a problem as we adjusted our fees to suit . . . we also made more space available on the outside to compensate,” he said, adding that “far from this Ross was a positive on BMEX this year. So I just would like to think that this was a misunderstanding.”
“I think all right-thinking Barbadians understand that Ross University is actually a blessing to Barbados in these [harsh] economic times and I can tell you that from the management perspective at the conference services, we will be doing our utmost best to facilitate BMEX and Ross University in the future because both are important,” said Straker.
Executive Director of the BMA Shardae Boyce told journalists the BMA was accustomed to having exhibitors on the outside of the building, adding that the Lions Club, which was involved this year, expressed satisfaction with the overall exhibit.
“I will go further to say that our exhibitors on the outside actually benefitted from the presence of Ross University being on site,” said Boyce.
There were about 108 exhibitors at this year’s showcase despite the near 200 that expressed an interest, and officials said they were still in the process of tallying the number of patrons who passed though the event over the four days.