As I reflect on this year’s highs and lows for the membership of the BCCI, I’m reminded there are three certainties in life – DEATH, TAXES and TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE.
The Chamber started 2016 by making courtesy calls to the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, The Minister of Industry, Business and Consumer Affairs and the Minister of Business Facilitation. We advocated that our primary concerns remained the lack of ease in doing business, refunds from BRA and suggested catalysts required to grow the economy specifically with a focus towards enterprises that could both earn and/or save foreign exchange as well as create jobs.
Economically, Barbados was again down-graded this year with a negative outlook as central government has still not concluded its analyses on which state enterprises are to be merged, sold or private partners sought to create strategic PPPs. This exercise was critical one year ago and now the prolonged effects of indecision are evident as the citizens and visitors to this country are subjected to poorly maintained roads, buses and both sewerage and delivery of potable water infrastructure.
Sadly this will only worsen as central government is asked to do more with less resources and it is the responsibility of the leadership of Government, the Private Sector, the labour movement and all of the agencies of our civil society to join together to ensure that on all important matters that must be addressed, a consensus to bring about this country’s developmental salvation is put in place and more importantly, an oversight committee established to ensure that agreed solutions are adhered to.
2016 will be remembered most as our jubilee year of Independence. When momentous anniversaries like this one occur, it is only normal that one would reflect on the hard work, sacrifices and nationalistic pride exhibited by our citizens over the last fifty years that brought us to the current level of development. Yet our level of development, education and productivity, as compared to others within the Caribbean, are no longer the gold standard. The gains of our forefathers are being eroded by a lack of entrepreneurship and inertia, as far too many are enjoying a level of entitlements Barbados can no longer sustain.
Modern societies are built on information, industrious and well educated workers, access to capital and a productive and efficient Private and Public sector. When any of these ingredients are out of kilter the equation falters and the results are anarchy. Timely and decisive leadership encourages confidence and ensures growth for the benefit of all Citizens. Barbados needs urgent leadership in 2017 and beyond to rescue us from “more of the same” to “punching above our weight”.
I’ve seen a level of frustration growing this year as the information regarding our economy, our morality and our ethics seem to suggest that they are perpetually declining as violence, crime and industrial unrest are growing faster than weeds! Ours is a destination for tourists and International Business which will choose to spend their hard-earned money elsewhere or worse, invest in other jurisdictions!
Industrial disputes are part of a capitalist economy. Their resolution call for long established protocols that must be adhered to. It is unacceptable for any one group of individuals to jeopardize or tarnish the reputation of this country by their actions. Surely the greater good should be paramount when responsible leaders decide on a course of action! We at the BCCI are hoping that mediation, which is fair and swift, may be employed to resolve many of these disputes. Provocative marches and name calling, which seem to be the norm in recent times, can never result in lasting settlements.
As the year draws to an end The Chamber remains optimistic about the prospects for 2017. We are confident that if all of the three pending large capital projects (Paradise, Hyatt, Sam Lords) mobilize to a start they can employ several hundred short and long term individuals, the knock-on effect will be extremely positive in raising the tide for all Barbadian businesses. Additionally, we are hopeful all central government and state agencies will bring their payables to within 180 days of current. We are wishful that our students, in their last year at secondary school, will be taught about an acceptable norm to be maintained in job interviews and applications, and more importantly maintained once they enter the work force. We are also optimistic that medium to long term apprenticeships will be encouraged as a tried and tested means of introducing students into the work force and building a positive work ethic. We are hopeful that mature and sober decisions regarding means testing, user fees and Government’s subsidies in consultation with the social partnership, will be made for the greater good of our Country and not as a means of advancing an agenda as we enter “silly season”.
Lastly, we are confident that our perennially poor standing in “the ease of doing business” is tackled head on by introducing incentives for those who meet and surpass the industry standard. Equally those who cannot meet these standards, as measured by KPIs (key performance indicators), are trained and coached to do better. We recognize that optimism on its own cannot translate into action and it is for this reason we seek to forge a consensus with the leadership in all spheres of this country; to exhibit the spirit of patriotism and goodwill which has served the nation so well in the past, and can do so in the foreseeable future.
In closing, on behalf of the BCCI Executive, Council and Secretariat, I would like to wish you and your families all of God’s Blessings for a bountiful season filled with health, peace and prosperity for 2017.
This article has also been featured in the Chamber Biz Newsletter – December 2016 edition. Click here to access your copy today.