The Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) has welcomed Government’s proposed 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp initiative.
BIBA President Derrick Cummins told Barbados TODAY there were several benefits that could be derived from the initiative including increased economic activity.
“BIBA is very supportive of this initiative as an income replacement plan and praises Government for being global leaders on such an idea,” he said.
“We anticipate that it will contribute a level and quality of spend to the Barbados economy not often provided by short-stay visitors, especially those who travel here on package deals where the majority of the revenue is captured first outside of the country before the visitors arrive,” said Cummins, as he pointed to the situation now facing the island’s accommodation sector where several of them are collectively owed millions by some major tour operators.
“Under the 12-month Welcome Stamp initiative we expect those covered by this visa to engage in long-term rentals of accommodation and transportation, regularly purchase food and engage with several different attractions and entertainment venues during the course of their time here,” he said.
Cummins, who is the Chief Executive Officer of J&T Bank and Trust, said there is already a level of interest in the new visa programme, adding that once individuals were able to have access to high speed internet many of them would have no problem working remotely from Barbados.
“As the association for global business, we constantly send the message that Barbados is the best place to work, live and play, and we have heard from quite a few of our members already of the interest generated by this initiative in their overseas clients and colleagues who are excited at the prospect of working remotely from here,” he reported.
“Remote working is not a new concept in metropolitans around the world. Once they have a robust internet connection, there are ‘digital nomads’ who are prepared to work from anywhere that they can plug-in,” added Cummins.
One downside he said, was the risk of the country importing new COVID-19 cases. However, Cummins quickly pointed out that BIBA remained confident in the authorities’ handling of the pandemic.
“We are confident that Government will implement a stringent screening process for potential applicants and ensure that a commitment to following our recently enhanced protocols would be a condition of their entry. It is a delicate balance that has to be achieved but we recognize that the health and safety of our people must be a priority,” he said.
At the same time, with concerns being raised that the initiative could attract more attention from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Cummins said this was not something BIBA took lightly.
“We know that this initiative is not being developed in a silo and that Government has engaged legal and tax expertise both from within BIBA’s membership and the public sector to ensure that we are fully compliant with all the international regulatory expectations in this scenario,” assured Cummins.
He said he hoped it was not seen purely as a tourism initiative, but one that could be a potential “win” for the international business sector as well.
He suggested that special consideration should be given to applicants who are potential investors or those who bring skills and knowledge not readily available locally and who are prepared to transfer those skills to the local workforce.
“Barbados will only remain competitive as long as we continue to upskill our workforce, and in an environment where travel is curtailed, this form of exposure and knowledge transfer could be invaluable for young Barbadians. BIBA professionals have been playing that role for decades and we would expect no less from this new cadre of professionals,” said Cummins.
Individuals seeking to take advantage of the new visa initiative must be earning a minimum of US$50,000, pass a character background check and have insurance arrangements in place.
While it is not exclusive, Government has also indicated that it was primarily targeting people between the ages of 22 and 55.