An initiative encouraging Black Barbadians to spend their money exclusively with Black-owned businesses on Tuesday, July 7 is receiving no support from one of the country’s largest private sector organisations whose leader is instead encouraging the black business sector to unite.
President of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Edward Clarke who last week stressed the need for more action on “racial division and economic enfranchisement in Barbados”, suggested that “Blackout Tuesday” – whose supporters share the same goal – could be doing more harm than good.
“If it is something they want to do, I don’t object to it, but I don’t think it will do anything to galvanize the society. If there is intent and a bond among people of color, it will show that up, but I don’t think we will achieve a more integrated society,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.
“Their goal may be to showcase their economic power, but it doesn’t bring the community together. There is no doubt about that. What happens if whites say they’re not going to spend money with blacks either?
“I don’t think in general it will help bring the Barbadian society together, whether Black, White, Indian, Chinese, mixed race or otherwise,” said the BPSA President.
The initiative originated in North America alongside the resurgence of black empowerment movements. In Barbados, the intention is to leverage the country’s 95 per cent black consumer population in support of a “national Black wealth creation strategy”, according to a release sent out by local entrepreneur Kathie Daniel.
The private sector spokesman agreed that white Barbadians own many of the companies in sectors like construction, and numerous multinational companies that dominate other industries.
He however argued that “blacking out” such entities would also affect thousands of Afro-Barbadians who manage, direct and serve as employees in businesses that are not owned by persons of their own ethnic background.
Instead, Clarke is encouraging Black entrepreneurs to take more risks, band together as business partners and use the billions of “black-owned” dollars sitting dormant in the country’s financial institutions to compete with more established companies on the island.
“There is no doubt that the average black man does not have the capital, but if you bond and band together, and embark on joint ventures and partnerships, you will see a difference. I guarantee that you will see a difference, and I just hope that people will try to do that, because it will be difficult otherwise.
“The banks are not going to lend money to people who don’t have good business plans and enough capital to back the finance that they want themselves, because most institutions ask for at least 30 or 40 per cent equity and then they will lend you the other 70 or 60 per cent,” Clarke suggested.
“…The $10 billion in surplus savings in the banks are not really owned by white people. We need to understand why that isn’t being put to good use. I think we need to understand that you need to take risks to get rewards. When you look around and see some of the well-established businesses majority owned by white people, we need to understand that these people put a lot of investment at risk to get a good reward and they have been successful over the years,” he added.
The BPSA president also acknowledged that in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Black Barbadians seeking capital might have been unfairly treated by financial institutions, but noted that in 2020, Black people now dominate the banking sector. According to Clarke, such factors, along with the tremendous success of the credit union movement should have resulted in a more level playing field.
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