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New private sector head counting on UN Global Network

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by Marlon Madden

Recently-elected Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) Trisha Tannis is hoping for acceleration of private sector led growth and diversification of the Barbados economy through the planned UN Global Compact Local Network for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

This UN Global Compact is a movement that aims to organise the coming together of sustainable businesses and stakeholders, supporting them to do business responsibly by “aligning their strategies and operations with the principles of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption”.

It also provides support for companies to take action towards achieving the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Addressing a recent UNCTAD 15 side-event, Tannis said she believed one of the first orders of business for the regional arm of the UN Global Compact was to provide support for tourism dependent economies to rebuild that sector.

“Not to proceed on that basis would be a bit naïve because that essentially is job number one,” said Tannis.

“We have massive levels of unemployment in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. We have massive levels of disenfranchisement of our persons on the ground level, we have our small business sector essentially being decimated and therefore it is difficult to think that anything can add value without actually addressing a recovery of our main economy, that is the hospitality and tourism sector,” she said.

However, Tannis said it must go further, explaining that work should be done to diversify the tourism product while also diversifying the economy so that Barbados and other countries can benefit more from other sectors.

Pointing out that the effects of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic on businesses were likely to linger “for quite some time”, Tannis said several new challenges have already emerged for firms.

She said the private sector was in a space where “predictability is elusive, and with that, confidence in the economy and investment risk appetites have waned significantly”.

“Apart from business disruption, social dislocation and economic disenfranchisement ensued, giving rise to some level of increased crime and social safety net mechanisms are certainly been stretched across the Caribbean,” said Tannis.

Pointing out that the “perfect storm” was brewing, she added that while disposable income had fallen the cost of living has risen sharply due to disruption in international supply chains, and the situation has been compounded by climate related challenges.

“Of course, the cherry on top [is] the global minimum tax threat to international business sectors in the region, putting additional pressure on other sectors to perform and threatening significant portions of tax revenue.

“Certainly, in Barbados, tax revenue from the international business sector accounts for well over two-thirds of corporate revenue in Barbados. So, this is a real serious threat,” said Tannis.

“So as we look towards the formation of a Global Compact Network and how this will have to assist in the following areas we need business continuity planning and support, infrastructural development and technological innovation.

“Access to lower cost financing is also going to be critical. We need to foster entrepreneurial enterprise cultures through skills training of young risk takers and small businesses,” she said.

Tannis said she was hoping the network would help to make it easier for the private sector to “understand how exactly they can advance the SDGs”, adding that a monitoring system to ensure compliance would be useful.

“For those who are compliant there needs to be some benefits to that, some incentives in terms of free financing or low-cost financing for research and development for example, and free training and capacity building,” she suggested.

“So essentially, what are the most relevant issues that the Global Compact needs to assess over the next two to three years? All of the above, but we need to reboot and diversify our economy, reducing unemployment, [coming up with] new core strategies to reduce vulnerability, build resilience against climate catastrophe and providing small business and entrepreneurship with stimuli,” she said.

marlonmadden@barbadtoday.bb

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