GIVE US SOME RELIEF!
Local manufacturers and businesses say the going remains tough in the midst of the current debilitating global economic recession and they are appealing for financial reprieve in the upcoming national Budget.
Representatives of the sector and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry held separate pre-Budget consultations yesterday with recently appointed Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler at Government Headquarters.
“We went to meet him basically to let him know how things stood in manufacturing and what things we thought Government might be able to assist with in boosting manufacturing without necessarily costing Government large amounts of money,” said Ian Pickup, president of the Barbados Manufacturers Association, immediately following the talks.
“Bearing in mind the financial situation, we thought it would be improper to go asking for large concessions when things are so difficult,” he added.
However, he told the SATURDAY SUN that there was no running away from the fact that the cost of doing business remained high and that the sector was “under tremendous pressure”.
He pointed to the rising commodity prices, as well as recent hikes in the domestic price of electricity and water, which he said had significantly impacted on the bottom line.
In addition, he said local manufacturers were forced to grapple with high port charges.
“People have to understand, I think, that even at the lowest level for a single small 20-foot container, the Barbadian importer pays 121 per cent more than a Trinidadian importer would to bring it through the port and if you are talking about a 40-foot refrigerated container, then Barbadian importers are paying 434 per cent more than their Trinidadian counterparts,” explained Pickup.
He did not provide the actual numbers but stressed that it was a serious matter that affected competitiveness.
Focus on issues
Yesterday’s meeting also zeroed in on issues affecting trade within CARICOM, in particular market access for Pine Hill Dairy products in Trinidad and Tobago, pork products in Jamaica and local furniture entering St Lucia.
Sinckler, who took up duty as Minister of Finance in a reshuffle on September 30, described talks as “cordial” and said Government was sensitive to the concerns of local businesses.
“We share their concerns about the rate of return and impact [of the recession] on cash flow,” he told the SATURDAY SUN.
The Minister of Finance said it was early days yet in the budgeting process but promised to further discuss issues pertaining to regional trade with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean and Senator Haynesley Benn, the minister responsible for trade. (KJ)