Itinerant vendors have played a significant role in Barbados’ economy for generations, and in recognising that the sector needs to operate in a more orderly fashion, the Ministry of Small Business, Industry and Commerce has announced that new regulations will be coming shortly to govern how to operate.
Speaking during the Estimates debate in response to a question from Member of Parliament for St James North Edmund Hinkson, Minister of Small Business, Industry and Commerce Dwight Sutherland said decriminalising vending is an area Prime Minister Mia Mottley is passionate about.
“We need to get a comprehensive vending policy, to get some legislation to allow vending to take its rightful place in this country. Some of the things we are considering will be expunging the records of vendors who would have been convicted for plying their trade illegally in the past, but we will also introduce a ticketing system or another type of penalty for those who contravene elements of the act. The Act will regulate all types of vending and will also examine the rights of vendors,” the minister said.
Sutherland also spoke to how vendors went about their business in Barbados including the issue of maintenance of vending stalls and the need for further training.
“When you travel in the Caribbean seeing coconut vendors, at the end of the day you don’t see the place looking untidy. We want to set up a well decorated safe place on the highway so coconut vendors can sell, we will educate them so they recognise that legitimate vending will bring them respect. We are also talking to the vendors in the markets who have indicated to me that they would like a better environment in which to work. It is important that we paint and renovate those facilities to make them attractive to locals and visitors alike.”
Sutherland then turned his attention to the role the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) will play as Barbados moves towards creating a viable renewable energy sector over the current decade.
“The Fair Trading Commission has finalised the setting of the tariff rates for renewable energy for less than one megawatt for investors in the country. Fair trading has to ensure that the renewable energy sector is built out, so they are working closely with the Ministry of Energy, to ensure that there is a policy framework in place, not just those below one megawatt, but those who go above that, up to ten megawatts, where they can negotiate with the utility. The FTC has to ensure the consumer does not pay too high a price, and that the monopoly is properly regulated to ensure that the renewable energy sector and electricity sector are such that the consumer is given a fair share in terms of electric bills.”
Director of Utility Regulation with the FTC Dr. Marsha Atherley-Ikechi explained the matter further saying, “People think of the FTC as consumer advocates, but we are not. We have to balance Government, investors and the consumer, and what we have done thus far is that we have given a number of ranges in terms of rates based on capacity and types of technology. Investors, whether local or international, will have a contract knowing their rates for a 20-year period, so that provides a level of ease for any financier. We expect that over the medium to long-term we wiill see a reduction in the cost of capital, and the Prime Minister has also given us a mandate to look at feed-in tariffs between five and ten megawatts. For this to work, we will have to amend the Utilities Regulation Act and the Fair Trading Commission Act to cover this, and this matter is being worked on.”
She said the commission is also developing a framework to regulate the storage of renewable energy resources. “Wind and solar power cannot be relied on for consistency, so we have to develop a framework for storage, up to 625 megawatts, so there is some firming of the system, so there is some reliability to the grid, frequency regulation and so on. We have to develop it not only in terms of providing energy but also storage and valuing the resources accordingly.
“Now, how do we go about it? We are about to issue a decision covering up to five megawatts, but what about the higher levels? One option is to continue with the feed-in tariff mechanism, so the FTC will have to understand inputs and set a tariff for that. Another is preferred procurement, where people bid on what is a viable business plan for them, and this is sometimes more favourable because it allows people to set rates that are closer to their costs of operations.”