THE ISSUE: Change must precede growth
Since Barbados began to feel the effects of the global economic recession back in 2008/2009, economists, business people and representatives of various sectors have been offering suggestions on improving the local situation.
And as the country continued to slip deeper into economic difficulty, their calls for action have become more strident.
Players in manufacturing and renewable energy have been among those airing their views.
The June 24 BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY reported that participants in an innovation and manufacturing symposium said they were tired of talk shops and very little action.
The one-day seminar put on by the Ministry of Industry was designed to discuss some of the challenges facing the manufacturing industry and identify possible solutions.
Managing director of Ticon Holdings Inc. Marcis Esmits said the participants identified three main areas of concern that they said must first be improved before the manufacturing sector could become more competitive.
He said a change in the education system was needed in order to help companies to compete.
“The education system has to be geared to what international companies want in terms of the services or products they need from a Barbados company or anything else that they might need,” Esmits said.
“The other main theme related to change is that basically we in Barbados have to be ready to change to meet the challenges of the global economy; change in thinking, attitude, structures, Government organization, private organizations and the company itself. You have to break out of the old paradigms and move to new ways of thinking and attitude.
“Collaboration is also very necessary, whether it is between individuals or within an organization, among business support organizations, Government and industry, university and industry, university and Government. There needs to be a lot more collaboration and communication,” he said.
In the May 13 BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, chief executive officer of Oran Limited Scott Oran said he believed manufacturing could play a greater role in growing the local economy.
He said that despite the various challenges within the sector, “it doesn’t mean it is lost forever”.
“It just means there needs to be a mindset to really develop [it].
“Many people think of just tourism as the industry but manufacturing is a very viable strategy for the future in terms of finding employment and bringing more skills to the population,” he said.
In the June 18 DAILY NATION, Minister of Industry Donville Inniss said wishful thinking would not result in a turnaround of the Barbados economy.
Instead, the rebound could only be achieved through creativity and hard work.
“The time has come for us to endeavour to turn the [manufacturing] sector around on a path of growth. Let us start today,” he urged.
“I am very concerned that we continue to talk and conduct ourselves as though the turnaround in this economy is going to come by wishful thinking. It can only come by hard work, creative thinking and capacity for hard work at all levels; the political directorate, public offices and the private sector. We cannot emerge from this recessionary period doing things the same way we were doing them coming into the recessionary period. We just have to do better.”
While acknowledging that Government was at some fault when it came to business facilitation, Inniss added that “far too often” those with “the most creative minds” were daunted by the lack of moral support, financial and technical systems, as well as high utility rates which were also contributing to the slow pace of development within the manufacturing sector.
In the March 21 DAILY NATION, players in the renewable energy sector voiced frustration at what they said was a lack of urgency in employing alternative energy in Barbados.
Clyde Griffith, executive director of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA), lamented that Government continued to spend “too much” on energy imports.
“The Government’s weakness . . . is in the area of implementation. We have the experience to demonstrate that there seems to be no sense of urgency within the administration given the time that we have been trying to get inside their head to make this thing work.
“Everything is in place to make renewable energy a reality in this country and given what we pay in foreign exchange for the use of oil, we need to see this as a very urgent event,” he said.
As a result, Griffith added, BREA had come up with an “18-month action plan” to encourage greater use of renewable energy. This plan includes BREA members going into schools and different communities and providing information on the sector. The non-governmental organization also plans to lobby Government for greater levels of execution.
Chief executive officer of Caribbean LED Lighting, Jim Reid, said if action was not taken now to capitalize on the use of alternative energy, Government and residents could end up spending more on energy over the coming months.
“I think Barbados is [heading for] a crisis and we are ignoring it,” he said.
“We are importing more than we are exporting and we are importing the wrong things. We have an abundance of wind and sun here and we are not utilizing them . . . . We have to do something,” added Reid. He said that there were significant savings to be realized in both households and businesses through greater use of renewable energy.
In the June 27 DAILY NATION, Griffith issued a plea to Government to work with BREA in setting up a strategy for quick implementation.
“We applaud the Government for its formulation and articulation of its energy policy and we will continue to do so,” the former minister of energy said. “But we are concerned about the pace of implementation.”