ON THE LEFT: Signs of decline in the sector
WE CANNOT AS A NATION FEEL HAPPY or satisfied that we are now becoming more and more dependent on one aspect of our economy for foreign exchange – tourism.
We have to, as policymakers, look to see new products all the time, what we can to diversify this economy, what we can do to gain more foreign exchange into Barbados; so that we can pay our food import bill of over $600 million a year, so that we can pay for the oil that is required to fuel our economy, our transportation and so on.
We still have to be concerned, even though Minister [Donville Inniss] did speak about $900 million being brought into the economy by the international business sector every year.
We should not be content with that alone. We have been hearing that figure certainly from the time this minister had the mandate at the political level for this sector of our economy.
But we certainly should be looking to increase this sector by over $1 billion by the end of this year. It has to be noted that the Central Bank in its most recent Press release, December 2015, speaks to the issue that during 2015, no new international banks were licensed and two wound up their operations, and that in fact at the end of December last year, less than two months ago, the total assets under management were $75 billion and that in fact represented a decline of around ten per cent compared to the assets at the end of December 2014.
These facts, and this is by the authoritative Central Bank, have to be a matter of concern to all of us, in particular to the Government of Barbados, that in some ways the international business sector is declining.
The Central Bank says that the business environment for international banks continues to be a challenging one.
We have to, I think, as policymakers come to the realisation, and not only talk the talk but walk the walk as well, that there has to be certain synergies between these major sectors of the economy and we have to promote our international business sector to a greater extent as part of our tourism product.
Our international business sectors can only achieve their full potential if the bureaucracy which revolves around them, the red tape, is lessened.
I note that the World Bank in its most recent report has now rated Barbados at 119 out of 189 countries on its Ease Of Doing Business Index in June 2015.
We cannot feel proud of that as a country. I think a couple years ago we were at 95.
We have to find a way to continue to develop this sector, which we believe has a lot more potential than what is being realised at the present time.
We should use our diplomatic missions more to promote Barbados. We spend a lot of money on our diplomatic missions, it cannot be seen as a holiday away from home at a circuit spread by those who serve us at diplomatic level overseas.
Our diplomats have to put their feet, hands and heads to the ground and work hard in the name of Barbados and certainly I would hope that the Government of Barbados has a strategy whereby our diplomatic mission will market this new business investment tool – incorporated cell companies – as well as all the other tools because we spend millions of dollars on our diplomatic missions.
Attorney-at-law Edmund Hinkson made these remarks on behalf of the Barbados Labour Party in the House of Assembly.