EDITORIAL – More than talk needed to fix import bias
Borrow trouble for yourself, if that’s your nature, but don’t lend it to your neighbours. – Rudyard Kipling, English poet and novelist.
WOE?TO?US! We yet must complain about the shutting out of our Barbadian-made products by our neighbours.
And it is not just “getting out of hand” as the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) executive director Bobbi McKay has suggested. It is out of hand.
Two years is a very long time for the doors to be continually slammed in the faces of new or increased Barbados products, while those of our neighbours flood through our gates.
Ms McKay identifies a cause of this unneighbourly state of affairs as “a protection issue: a lot of tariff barriers . . .”.
But Senator Haynesley Benn is going to have to do more than support Ms McKay and champion any meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture, the BMA and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to forge ways of getting our products on our own supermarket shelves at the expense of Trinidad’s or those of our other recalcitrant neighbours.
This talk shop to an answer is a promise we are not unfamiliar with – administration in, administration out.
And if we in the true spirit of CARICOM continue to open our doors to our neighbours’ products, and our neighbours, devoid of that spirit, continue to deny us entry into theirs, mere confabbing at home is unlikely to bring much desirable result.
Not very long ago, Barbados was initially boasting that its exports to Trinidad, for example, in 2010 were up by $20 million plus – from $68 million in 2009. The truth is the $89.4 million in products exported to Port-of Spain in 2010 paled against $748.5 million in imports from Trinidad and Tobago, an increase from the $631.4 million the previous year.
What can Trinidad be trying to protect in the circumstances? These trade figures only show that as Barbados attempts to widen its sale of manufactured goods to the region, in particular Trinidad, the trade balance between the two countries remains heavily in favour of Port-of Spain.
Notably, 2010 was the first time Barbados had sold that volume of goods to Trinidad, which from reports was based on the performance of a few export sub-sectors, particularly chemicals and energy.
The English humanist William Hazlitt once warned that the “way to get on in the world is to be neither more nor less wise, neither better nor worse than your neighbours”.
It seems a lesson not exactly learned by neighbouring “chief culprits” Trinidad, Jamaica and St Lucia.