Private sector operators are being urged to do more to help boost the island’s productivity and overall competitiveness while helping to fight corruption.
Executive Director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Misha Loban-Clarke issued the call on Wednesday, while urging BCCI members to assist Government in achieving its objectives of making the public sector more efficient, fostering fiscal sustainability, and safeguarding social development.
Loban-Clarke was addressing a BCCI/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) breakfast discussion at the Sandals Royal Barbados, under the theme The Role of the IDB Group and the Private Sector in Developing a Vibrant and Innovative Caribbean Through Research and Regional Partnerships.
The official said there was enough evidence to suggest that corruption was on the rise in the region, and the private sector should play a greater role to reverse that trend.
“To counter this perception our private sector can commit to greater transparency and good governance by strict adherence to anti-corruption rules and access to information requirements,” said Loban-Clarke
She suggested that companies form strategic partnerships throughout the Caribbean to help tackle the various economic and social challenges facing the region’s economies.
“Research is also critical in our bid to develop ideas that will lead to the next big initiative that will have the power to build capacity and stimulate economic growth,” she said.
“We should be engaged in investigating what we can do to transform new ideas into viable businesses that will create wealth and new job opportunities for our growing population. There is an important nexus between research and innovation, productivity and growth. It is therefore important for the private sector to invest in a development fund to support and drive innovation and reposition the Barbados economy and the rest of the region for the future,” Loban-Clarke recommended.
She also urged the business community to include vulnerable groups such as women and people with disabilities in projects and programmes as a genuine recognition that these groups can add value to their companies’ overall strategy and productivity.
IDB General Manager for the Caribbean Therese Turner-Jones also called for increased productivity in the region, saying this was critical to economic growth.
She said while the Caribbean was faced with a number of macro-economic challenges, low productivity was playing a major role in the low economic growth rates.
“Productivity for the economy on a whole includes returns on labour and returns on capital mostly. So investment in the Caribbean region and in Barbados, where we have data today, has not really been as high as 20 per cent for a long time. So that means that most of what is contributing to gross domestic product has to do with government spending or consumer spending and not really returns on investment,” she explained.
“It is a big issue and we need to figure out how to address that,” she warned.
The IDB official proposed that in order to improve productivity the labour market should be enhanced through the upgrading of skills and greater use of technology in both the private and public sectors.
Warning that the process also called for improvement in government services, Turner-Jones urged the business community to take climate change and its impact into account when developing policies.
However, she said perhaps one of the most critical elements to productivity was that of research and development, an area she said the region was sadly lacking.
“A 2014 study of over 1,400 firms in the region suggests that anywhere between 15 and 30 per cent of firms are involved in doing some kind of research. What do I mean by that,? A lot of companies are still doing business as if they were operating in the 1960’s and 1970’s. There has not been a lot of innovation in how the private sector works,” she lamented.
Turner-Jones told the seminar, which also included a number of civil society and government representatives, that there was need for more empirical data so better business decisions could be taken. [email protected]