James “Jimmy” Clarke
The Council of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) extend best wishes for good health and prosperity to our members, partners, and stakeholders for 2024. We move into this New Year affirming our continued commitment to providing focused leadership and strong advocacy on behalf of the members of the business sector at a time of increasing uncertainty and global instability.
In 2023, the BCCI continued to work hard in serving as the trusted voice of the business community in Barbados through our advocacy and influence in policy development. The Chamber made representation in various sectors such as energy, disaster preparedness and recovery, climate resilience, movement of cargo through the Bridgetown Port, front of package labelling, Bridgetown revitalization; Mission Economy, BPSA, Social Partnership. Several trade/business missions to Barbados were facilitated by the Chamber in 2023 and will continue to do the same in 2024 including proposed trade/business missions to Panama and Atlantic Canada. The Chamber also will continue to engage regional and international Chambers of Commerce to arrange bilateral cooperation on trade and trade facilitation. This also includes work with the UN agencies – e.g., signing onto the UN Global Compact, and engaging with other NGO’s such as USAID and OAS towards advancing potential opportunities for trade and business expansion for the business sector.
With 2023 being the first post-pandemic complete year, the BCCI forged ahead with annual in-person events such as the Annual Women’s Leadership Forum; Digital Conference; the Annual Post Budget Analysis and Discussion; the BCCI Annual General Meeting & Annual Business Luncheon; the Prime Minister’s luncheon with the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister; the annual Business Roundtable; and B2B Mix ‘n Mingles. On behalf of the Executive, the Council, and the Secretariat of the BCCI, I would like to thank all the members for their support over the past year.
Like 2022, last year was a challenging one. While tourism rebounded to near pre-COVID levels, the ongoing supply chain problems continued and even worsened with the severe drought in Panama causing low water levels in the Panama Canal thus limiting the number of ships and the amount of cargo each one could carry. Compounding this is the war in Gaza and the attacks on shipping in the Red Sea thus limiting the number of vessels willing to take the risk of traversing this waterway and the Suez Canal. So, with two of the World’s major shipping lanes impaired, the cost of freight is skyrocketing into COVID era levels again. 2023 saw large increases in inflation which were felt by everyone especially in the purchases of food items. Towards the end of 2023, the rate of inflation was falling, however, the global shipping challenges will likely force the rate back up.
The above highlights the urgent need for Barbados, and the wider Caribbean region, to ramp up the production of food and other commodities in their respective territories and seek to establish cost effective inter-country transport systems with keenly priced LCL cargo rates to improve the ease of shipping goods. Barbados also needs to look regional, and extra-regional markets in the Atlantic area, to mitigate against shipping delays through the Panama and Suez Canals which may occur for an indeterminate time. This may also provide for reciprocal trade opportunities for businesses in these jurisdictions, not just in hard goods, but in digital services.
It seems likely that instability in the world will continue in 2024, however, the BCCI will continue to lead the business sector in its advocacy and representation on the ease of doing business, assisting with bilateral trade facilitation and the Mission Economy, and engaging stakeholders through the Social Partnership. If the pandemic and ensuing turmoil have taught us anything, it is that we must be resilient and agile in our businesses if we are to seize opportunities.
We appreciate the support received from other business support organisations, from our members, and from our key stakeholders in the public sector, NGOs, and international agencies.
The BCCI Council, Secretariat and Committees wish you a Happy and Prosperous 2024 and we look forward to serving you and to building a stronger business ecosystem with your support this year.