Democratic Labour Party (DLP) spokesman on business Ryan Walters believes the international business sector is poised to help bring much needed foreign exchange to the ailing Barbados economy.
And he is challenging Minister of International Business Ronald Toppin to outline a clear plan of action for the global business sector in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walters said while he saw the Barbados 12-month Welcome Stamp initiative as a “good start” for welcoming some international business, there was need for a clearly articulated plan from the Mia Mottley-led administration.
“We need to hear from Minister Ronald Toppin and the Government on what plans are forthcoming as the country paves a new way,” said Walters in a video message.
“Where are we today with the international business sector? At what rate are we attracting new international companies to our shores since revising our corporate tax regime last year? Are we any further ahead with our global competitiveness as it relates to the ease of doing business? The economic gap that needs to be filled is tremendous and numerous initiatives must be targeted,” he added.
Walters insisted that more ideas were needed to bring in foreign exchange from other sources and to provide employment opportunities in the absence of the traditional tourism industry.
“I like the Welcome Stamp initiative. It’s a step in the right direction, but what else can be done? Why can’t a small team of locals provide services remotely to major international companies? A Bajan who remains at home and works for a foreign business will not only earn an income but will also earn foreign exchange for Barbados. Let us market the skills, experience and intelligence of our people,” he said.
The businessman said given the known benefits of international business, more time and money could be spent focusing on that sector.
“The country has not been given any updates on the international business and financial services sector in recent times. This sector, although it has its challenges from time to time, has for the past two decades been a major contributor to foreign exchange, employment and domestic activity,” he said.
“It drives employment. Almost 80 per cent of the employees in this sector are locals. This translates to tax revenue for the Government in the form of employer National Insurance Scheme contributions and personal income tax revenue. Additionally, we have seen this sector contribute as much as 64 per cent of the corporation tax revenue collected by the Barbados Revenue Authority,” he added.
Furthermore, said Walters, the global business sector was known to contribute significantly to domestic spending, through expatriates renting or purchasing properties, sending their children to school in Barbados, shopping, procuring services locally and paying bills.
He said by its very nature, international businesses also contributed to tourism “without effort, as senior employees and owners of the companies move to and from the country, they book hotels, dine out at restaurants, use taxis and hire cars, and take in attractions”.
“The benefits of this sector are numerous and should not be ignored,” he contended.
During a recent interview with Barbados TODAY, officials of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) indicated that the sector remained resilient throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and was able to adjust quickly.
BIBA President Derrick Cummins had said: “Thankfully, there have been no widespread layoffs, and any closures that we have become aware of were already in train before the impact of COVID-19 and are more driven by other factors, such as tightening regulatory requirements or credit rating agency downgrades.”
He said one of the main lessons for the sector and the wider business community was that “having a business continuity plan for a disaster is a necessity, not just a nice to have”. (MM)