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LEFT OF CENTRE: Improve how we do business

Henderson Holmes

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As I survey likely challenges facing the business community in Barbados in 2013, I would have to suggest that our major impediment is clearly our deficiency in business facilitation.
In this regard, the primary issue facing us is the attitude of the average Barbadian toward business.
Without a change in the way the average person perceives and relates to business activity in Barbados, our various attempts to improve business facilitation across the public and private sectors will continue to be undermined.
We need, at a strategic level, a re-education of Barbadians as to how this economy really works.
In some instances, the business community is presented in an adversarial and generally negative light and businesspeople viewed with suspicion, when in fact it is business activity that generates all the wealth in this country.
It is through business activity that Government attains revenue – in the form of taxes, duties, fees and others – from which its social welfare programmes, health, education and other services are funded and through which it employs thousands in the public service.
As 2013 unfolds, it is evident that the economic uncertainties that have dampened growth prospects across our industrial sectors show little sign of abating.
Therefore, it is imperative that those responsible for guiding Barbados’ strategic development hone in on the areas that can best position this island to be competitive in attracting the levels of foreign investment that can continue to drive growth and catalyze our domestic industries that rely on spin-offs from our international business sector.
Greater emphasis needs to be placed on legislative development and business facilitation.
Government recently took the right steps in this direction by tabling the Private Trust Companies Bill and Foundations Bill in Parliament.
It is expected that the passage of these pieces of legislation will be attractive to wealthy families for their asset-protection strategies. These would put Barbados squarely in the sights of high net-worth individuals and their advisors in the Latin American market, which is opening up as the new frontier for international business growth in Barbados.
It is hoped that the passage of these and several other eagerly awaited pieces of business legislation will be accelerated to boost Barbados’ competitiveness.
There is also an urgent need for a comprehensive review and amendment of the entire slew of business legislation to remove the numerous inconsistencies that continue to frustrate people doing business in this jurisdiction.
The importance of a country’s body of laws as a factor in driving business development must be more readily appreciated. This refers to both the extent and quality of the legal framework.
However, the legislative improvement in itself will not attract and maintain international business. There also needs to be a greater urgency in ensuring that our private and public sector institutions which play key roles in the establishment and conduct of business on the island can consistently deliver their services at the standard expected by global investors.
A key, but perhaps overlooked player in this area is the Barbados judicial system. The unfortunate extreme sluggishness of our court processes is a major deterrent to international investors looking for responsiveness and efficiency.
Even when they do establish here, most international entities refuse to make Barbados the deciding court in their contracts – a poor reflection on us as an international business and financial centre.
It is, therefore, imperative that all Barbadians recognize the importance of participating in, supporting and facilitating business development if we are to engender national resolve and determination to significantly improve the way we do business as a country.  
We must capitalize on more of our opportunities and truly realize our enormous potential as an international business centre.
• Henderson Holmes is executive director, Barbados International Business Association.