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LEFT OF CENTRE: Not easy to do business here

Henderson Holmes

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I would think that any cursory survey of the way in which business is done in Barbados would provide clear evidence that business facilitation is not on the front burner among those with influence in either the public or private sectors.
I have gone on record recently as saying that business development should be a shared national goal for all Barbadians. It is not enough for organizations such as the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), Barbados Private Sector Association or Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry to be hammering on the door for improved business facilitation in Barbados.
All Barbadians should recognize that encouraging greater efficiency and responsiveness, in both private and public sector agencies charged with facilitating the establishment and conduct of business in Barbados, will redound to their benefit – it would considerably cut down on the time and resources it costs for the ordinary man and woman to achieve even the common task of renewing a passport.
When we speak of facilitation, we are asking questions about how easy it is to do business in Barbados. From the perspective of foreign investors with alternative locations for their investments, the quality of our business facilitation determines our competitiveness vis-à-vis other jurisdictions.
However, from the point of view of local businesspeople it is a matter of whether we see it as encouraging or frustrating initiative and enterprise.
While BIBA is ostensibly the representative body for the international business sector, there are synergies created between our sector and the domestic business sector that beg for us to champion this cause as an overall national one.
The agencies that administer the processes for the establishment and operation of businesses in Barbados do not discriminate, or at least they should not, and therefore when we call for Government agencies, banks, legal firms and other support agencies to streamline their activities in an efficient, transparent, and effective matter, it is with the understanding that all boats would rise with the tide.
Whether or not we think of Barbados as a society or as an economy, we need to understand the indispensable role of business activity; hence private sector investment in determining the quality of our society by virtue of its wealth-creating capacity.
In effect the economy and society are inextricably linked; the vibrancy or otherwise of the former determines the quality of the latter.
This is why Government must also take up this message of a shared national agenda for business development and facilitation.
Governments do not generate wealth; they garner revenue based on the income that their private corporations generate.
Therefore, and especially in these austere times when Government is being forced to take hard decisions as to where it allocates its funds and how many employees it retains, it is imperative that Government encourage the type of environment in which businesses can grow and thrive.
It does not take a degree in advanced economics to recognize that thriving businesses mean lower levels of unemployment, higher levels of Government, improving fortunes in our gross domestic product and hence, higher levels of social satisfaction.
Therefore the issue of business facilitation must have a permanent place on the front burner for national attention.
Insisting that our business facilitation service agencies be ever alert, adopt a can-do attitude, carry out their responsibilities in an efficient manner, and be committed to constantly raising the bar must be the ongoing responsibility of all organizations and people who understand what it has taken to develop the standard of living we currently enjoy and seem to be taking for granted.
We must never forget how easily this standard of living can be undermined if we do not, as a nation, make business facilitation a priority.