The hosting of this year’s BMEX has been described by Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, as “especially opportune” given the challenges the island continues to experience.
Speaking today at the official opening of the country’s premier manufacturing exposition at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Mr. Inniss said: “Notably, this occasion can be used as a springboard to conceptualising and unveiling remedies to the challenges, which we as policymakers and market operators can seek to implement, in mitigating and overcoming our present and future challenges.”
The Minister added that the manufacturing sector had the unique ability to both earn much needed foreign exchange through the sale of Barbadian products abroad, as well as to reduce foreign exchange outflows through the domestic consumption of locally manufactured goods, vis-á-vis their imported counterparts.
He said manufacturing also had the potential to facilitate multi-sectoral Foreign Direct Investment, realise an increase in occupational opportunity and productivity, while ultimately expanding economic activity here.
As he urged a collaborative response by all involved, Mr. Inniss stressed: “This reality speaks to the need and responsibility of the Government, private sector entities and Business Support Organizations like the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association, to continue to work in unison to deepen, strengthen and re-double our efforts towards repositioning the manufacturing sector on the most elevated path of prominence and prosperity, to the benefit of all of us Barbadians.”
Providing a record of Government’s action in respect of the manufacturing sector, the Industry Minister said Barbados had introduced a number of incentives to revive the productive sectors. These, he noted, comprised a swathe of incentives for green energy businesses; about 10 trade agreements to which Barbados is signatory; export financing facilities; and numerous funds supporting both loans and grants to target manufacturing, small businesses and renewable energy.
However, Mr. Inniss said these provisions had clearly not brought about the level of competitiveness anticipated. And, he stated that with the passage of time, the emergence of financial services as the primary attraction for foreign investors and the erosion of once vibrant subsectors like electronics, apparel and furniture, the manufacturing sector “had not been growing as we would have liked over the years”.
It was also noted that Barbados’ competitiveness had never been on the basis of low labour cost and other countries were better placed to leverage this advantage. “We have accepted that Barbados cannot compete with the Chinas of the world, and even on a smaller regional scale, with lower cost producers like Jamaica and Trinidad. Our cost of production is just too high to compete in the realm of mass production for the global market,” the International Business Minister stressed.
While he identified the top drivers for Barbados as being finance, workforce productivity, innovation and business facilitation, he, however, lamented there were shortcomings. “All of these areas have proven to be bottlenecks and major constraints to growth and they are clearly critical success factors for growing out the manufacturing sector in Barbados,” he said.