EDITORIAL: Preserving the offshore sector
The start of week-long celebrations of the Barbados International Business Association could not have come at a better time for our embattled economy. Recently we have had a spate of unpleasant stories in which some workers in the private sector have had to suffer salary payments being delayed by up to two weeks.
Pensioners are suffering delayed payments, too, because of hardware problems at the national pensions payment department. Transport Board workers severed under the current austerity programme are agitating for their payments while the tribunal set up to adjudicate the cases of severed NCC workers is yet to hit top speed.
The start of International Business Week is by far the brightest spark in this cloud of uncertainty, and we return to this topic of international business to highlight the sector to bring its success story up front and centre.
Many of our citizens do not seem to understand nor appreciate just what an important contributor this sector is to our prosperity, and indeed to our very survival given the plethora of challenges which our economy faces.
In our opinion, however, the Barbados International Business Association, very ably led since its inception by some public-spirited professionals, deserves our total national support for a job well done in the face of mountainous obstacles which it faces and fixes, time and time again.
President Connie Smith reminded us recently of a study by Invest Barbados which showed that at the height of the global crisis between 2008 and 2010, when foreign exchange was at a premium, our offshore sector contributed about $800 million to Government coffers as licence fees, National Insurance contributions, corporate and incomes taxes and other fees. Added to this was another $100 million paid directly by the employees as opposed to the companies during that same time period.
An input of close to a billion dollars in foreign exchange at a time when foreign exchange and international trade were in the doldrums ought to make the powerful case that this sector must be accorded national support by every sensible person living within our shores.
In calling for the support of the people, we urge the Government to give priority to those legislative and adminstrative changes which will speed up and make easier the performance of regulatory and necessary processes which have to be performed or satisfied by companies in the offshore sector.
In this context, we urge Government to ensure that financial assistance and encouragement are offered to students who show a desire to qualify themselves deliberately for the higher posts in the sector.
Specialised courses such as those put on by the Society of Trust and Estate Planners, The Institute of Taxation and similar foreign-based institutions should attract financial help from the Ministry of Education.
This has to be done so that Barbadians can aspire to the highest levels of the industry apart from qualifying as lawyers and accountants. We must always encourage our people to aim for the commanding heights of the offshore profession.
We also urge the speediest enactment of appropriate amending and modern legislation, so that our country can keep abreast of cutting-edge practices.
We need to do all that we have to do to keep our offshore sector at the top of its game.