EDITORIAL: New class of manufacturers deserves support
I HAVE TO confess that, based on what I’ve seen today, there is a quiet revolution taking place in Barbados.
I’m quite impressed with the creativity evident among Barbadians . . . . I know we used to have a very vibrant manufacturing sector in days of yore. It has had some difficult challenges, but it is evident it is on its way back. – Prime Minister Freundel Stuart during a tour of BMEX on Saturday.
We do share the Prime Minister’s view that there is a quiet revolution taking place in local manufacturing, a development that should make all Barbadians proud. In fact, we believe the real pride in this development comes from the fact that it is occurring without the vibrant suite of state-led policies that ought to have been in place for years.
In many respects, both the Barbados Labour Party and Democratic Labour Party governments have offered less than spectacular support to the manufacturing sector, and nationally we have failed to maintain a sufficiently dynamic policy approach that would have suggested the world in which we were operating was changing rapidly and dramatically.
We have moved a tremendous distance from the times when throngs of workers were seen pouring out of industrial estates at the Harbour, Grazettes and Wildey in St Michael, Newton in Christ Church and Six Roads in St Philip at the end of each shift.
It has been many years since our industrial landscape was dominated by vibrant local and foreign entities such as Intel, Tansitor, Mico Garments, Playtex Ltd, Husbands Wrought Iron, Juman’s Garments, Tiny Tots Limited, Caribbean Data Services and Offshore Keyboarding.
Instead, as seen increasingly at events such as BMEX in recent years, manufacturing here has become the preserve of one-door shops – small operations that stake their success on quality products served in a personalised environment.
What’s sad about this situation, though, is that it does not appear enough state resources are deployed to support this development. We do not get the impression that the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) of today is engaging producers at the level of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) of the past.
We used the word “sad” because the evidence suggests that Barbados is unlikely to attract the manufacturing giants of the past, and it is about time we demonstrate we appreciate that growth in our manufacturing sector will depend on facilitating the entrepreneurial spirit of this new class of enterprising Barbadians.
Our local apparel manufacturers will find it difficult to compete against the internationally branded items retailed en masse on Broad Street and Swan Street, but our local designers and producers can hold their own in specialty shops and through informal trade.
By the same token, there are scores of condiment producers who have left no doubt that from their home-based operations they can meet a significant portion of the needs of the country. They have taken retail outlets, big and small, by storm. And these represent just a fraction of the niches being carved out by this new breed of Barbadian manufacturer.
These small business operators, if facilitated and supported, can collectively have the impact on the economy that would rival the big names of the 80s and ’90s. We therefore look forward to hearing the Prime Minister enunciate a series of policies that would breathe new life into manufacturing, particularly small businesses.