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RIGHT OF CENTRE: Change attitude, use technology

Errol Niles

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The issue is simple when given alternative choices. Barbados is far from the top of the list when selecting a business-friendly domicile to establish a business and the problem is partly due to bureaucratic inertia and a lack of coordinated and integrated technology within the public sector.
Nonetheless, Barbados can boast multiple advantages and unparalleled potential as a place where businesses could achieve global excellence, though we are nowhere near that goal.
Some people are not in favour of regulating business but there is still the need for some form of generic controls like health and safety, paying taxes and being fair and transparent generally.
It is not to say there should not be some regulation and due diligence but there is sometimes some ethnocentric condescension when some people attempt to do business in Third World countries, believing that there should not be the slightest inconvenience or delay when attempting to set up shop.
This seems particularly evident in the area of planning permission and registration of businesses.
Beyond that, there is no doubt that over-regulation pushes up commercial expenses and prices higher. In addition, in a few areas of Government, it encourages subtle forms of bribery.
Decades ago, when New Zealand was in serious economic trouble, the government there hired a number of business consultants for advice. “Tell us what you’d do if New Zealand was your business,” they asked.
The unequivocal answer was to deregulate. The problem was that its laws were clogging up the wheels of commerce, and making it harder to facilitate trade.
The purpose of any government is to lubricate the market with opportunity, so business can make the profits that pay the taxes that fund its social programmes.
In order to achieve business facilitation, it is necessary to disabuse ourselves of the notion that civil servants are in charge and that their job is to be obstructive in terms of their own rules.
They need to be encouraged to be supportive instead and remember who pays them.
Today, New Zealand – another isolated island – has a robust economy where technology is widely utilized and new businesses are routinely registered instantly via the Internet.
This is the direction in which our major competitors are moving fast and Barbados needs to do the same post-haste.
The recent move by Government to streamline its tax and financial departments should help in this process.
Moreover, different departments combine in single, conveniently located offices; income tax, employee and other enquiries can take place across a single desk.
Barbados needs to start a technological revolution across all sectors to enhance its reasonably favourable attitude to business facilitation.
The issue might not be on the front burner but it is now in the firing line as the country faces serious economic difficulties.
There is definitely room for improvement.