Every government in an independent Barbados, including the two-year-old Mottley administration, has failed Black-owned business, said the head of a UWI thinktank who has pleaded with the two-year-old regime to break the cycle.
Director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) Dr Don Marshall said he is hopeful that ongoing Blackout Day initiatives to encourage patronising of Black entrepreneurs can start a conversation about the role of the state in broadening the country’s economic base to include Black people in the struggle for wealth creation.
Dr Marshall contends that Barbadian black business startups are often crushed under the weight of centuries-old White and later, Syrian-owned, wealth that was supported and maintained by colonialism. On the other hand, he argued that Black entrepreneurs, whose wealth dates back no more than three generations are often more risk-averse because they are in peril of depleting their entire family inheritances.
He said: “Most of the Syrian and Lebanese came here with their wealth, but when you deal with the African-derived populations, we were victims of terrorism, banditry, denial of black humanity and these are the origins.
“So you cannot have a state emerging out of that colonial and slavery experience that simply allows the market to exist with the private sector being the main engine of growth.
“At some point, the state must intervene to do more than just correct a historical wrong. The only way to shake up the dominance of a conservative enterprise culture is to create an enabling environment for industrial deepening, new inventions and value-added approaches to business.”
So excluded are Black people from the country’s “superficial” business culture of buying and selling that Dr Marshall believes a thriving business can only be achieved if capital is provided for investment in such new, innovate and production-based industries as solar energy, computer technology and advanced agriculture.
He has accused administrations of maintaining the status quo which maintains generational wealth in the hands of a few and restricts blacks for the most part to the working class.
“The state has effected a siege by allowing black entrepreneurial expression to flounder,” the.political economist argued.
“The state needs to incentivize innovative design-driven economy instead of leaving Black people in Barbados who are only now experiencing a third generation of being just a middle class.
“Do not leave them to pauperize their parents and grandparents by having to survive on the wits of the loan because their house was put up to start the business. It is vulgar and argued.”
Black Tuesday and Blackout Day have been used as a tool of black empowerment, particularly by activists in the United States aimed to support Black-owned businesses that are perceived to be operating at the disadvantage.
It has been rejected by the Barbados Private Sector Association and the Small Business Association as well as some social and political observers who claim that the Barbadian business climate provides equal opportunities.
But Marshall explained: “The law of capitalism is jungle-like. If you enter an area that is dominated by established players, they are going to use their advantage and power to price you out of the market, and to have your business face considerable cash flow pressures until it collapses.
“Whenever we are talking about race and business, it is important to understand the enterprise culture of that place and the enterprise culture in Barbados is that of commercial dealing business… and when Blacks try to get into those areas, they stumble upon a well-established wealthy class of persons who have experienced intergenerational wealth going back hundreds of years.” [email protected]