Government should open ownership of the Transport Board, the Barbados National Oil Company (BNOC) and the airport and seaport to “ordinary Barbadians” and institutions.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley made the suggestion yesterday while addressing members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry at Hilton Barbados.
She said Government should not continue to wholly own and manage some of its facilities, when to do so would “challenge its ability to afford other services and benefits which are more important to us as a society – like affordable health care and free tertiary education”.
Her recommendation is that Government allow credit unions, individual small investors, pension funds, medium and large corporate entities, as well as workers to share in the ownership of a number of state-owned enterprises.
On the Transport Board, she asked: “Why should Government invest another $100 million in debt to purchase equipment [buses] and operational expenses over the next decade when it can contract out its routes to private operators for a fixed fee monthly in a highly regulated environment . . . ?
“Why can’t the men and women who have been driving the buses for years be empowered to become owners, along with other private investors in the sector?”
She pointed out that it would be necessary for Government to continue to find a mechanism “to protect the most vulnerable for whom that cost of travel is still a burden”.
On the BNOC, she said Government could continue to own part of it through the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
However, she asked why the workers, other institutional investors reflecting a broad-based ownership profile and local companies should not be given the same opportunities.
Widening the ownership base “will allow us to raise capital for the BNOC while ensuring that Government can focus on its core responsibility of regulation while creating a platform for ownership in Barbados”, she said.
According to Mottley, if Government maintained ownership of the airport and seaport to ensure security, that safety could be provided no matter who owns these facilities.
If it was a revenue concern, Government could share retention through the NIS and fees and taxes will ensure that the country continues to benefit from future revenue and profits.
Mottley underscored the need for Government to make major changes in its economic model as the economy continues to face tough times. (TY)