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Trevor Yearwood

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EVEN THOUGH no date is known for this year’s budget, the business community has its wish list.
Some of the priorities were identified yesterday as the country awaits what is expected to be a late, possibly July budgetary package.
One call is for the Government to come with long-overdue legislation to help the offshore business sector; another is to assist meat producers with an eye to exporting to Europe.
Business also wants the Government to fill manpower shortages at the Customs Department and the Town Planning Department that are said to be causing delays in processing applications.
And while the Environmental Levy is reportedly bringing Government around $50 million annually, the business community thinks it is about time the levy was scrapped.
It’s position was put yesterday by new president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andy Armstrong, as businesses continue to speculate on what’s coming in the 2010 national budget.
“We generally don’t think Government is in any position to give handouts or concessions,” Armstrong told the SUNDAY SUN. “We know they have got a difficult situation; they have got a deficit which, you know, is not sustainable in the long term. So we at this stage are not looking for any handouts.”
He added: “What we are looking for, as a chamber, is for the Government to allocate resources to dealing with some of the long-standing business efficiency issues that we have.
“These include the long, long time it is taking to get legislation written and passed through Parliament, which is holding up a number of key things in moving businesses forward, for example updating the Phytosanitary Act, which has been in the process for many, many years.”
Armstrong said that until Barbados had legislation in line with international laws governing health conditions on meat and other products, it will continue losing opportunities to export to the European Union.
“The offshore sector is also unhappy,” Armstrong reported.
“There are a number of pieces of legislation we would like to see put through which would make us more competitive on the international stage.
“There is no quarrel from the Government’s point of view; they are on board with getting it done . . . .”
On the Town Planning Department, he said there had been reports from local and overseas investors “that it takes too long to be given the yes or no on projects”.
He complained: “In a lot of cases it just takes so long to get the answer that the investors lose interest and they go elsewhere.”
On the Customs Department, he said the problem is that the information technology or computer department was “very under-staffed”, with the effect that duty-free businesses face delays in getting their applications processed.
Armstrong also said the chamber was hoping Government “will rethink the Environmental Levy, given fears that “the way the law is written now it’s going to be a much bigger burden on locally produced goods than it will be on imported goods”. (TY)