Feature: The Barbados Competitiveness Programme ??? A Catalyst for Improving the Island???s Domestic Sectors

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Chris Sinckler, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs (left) and Terry Bascombe, Coordinator of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme; at the launch of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme earlier this year. (photo courtesy of??NATIONNew.com)

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Confronted by the effects of the worst economic recession in over a century, government is taking steps to ensure that the future development of the island’s domestic sectors is on a sure footing.

This will be achieved over the next four years with the implementation of the Government of Barbados/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded Barbados Competitiveness Programme. ??The overall cost of the programme is US $11.8 million and, of this figure, the IDB will provide US $10 million; while government will foot the remaining US $1.8 million.

The loan agreement was initialed by late Prime Minister David Thompson on March 21 last year. The programme was officially launched during a ceremony at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, earlier this year.

Coordinator of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme (BCP), Terry Bascombe, described it as "a necessary fillip to improve the competitiveness of the island’s economy" in light of the challenges being experienced as a result of the ongoing economic crunch.

"Most countries have taken this opportunity to strengthen their economies to ensure that their domestic sectors are more resilient if faced with situations like these in the future.?? In the case of Barbados, the programme would, among other things, improve the export potential of the economy and enable the domestic sectors to attract more private investors," he added.

Apart from these goals, Mr. Bascombe alluded to the four-pronged strategy that would be adopted to realise these targets.?? "The first component would seek to ensure a coherent business development framework that deals with matters relating to fiscal incentives and regulation; the second component’s emphasis would be on creating a more coherent architecture of public sector services to facilitate business development; while the third component would address issues regarding the logistics of trade facilitation and improving access to infrastructure through public/private partnerships.?? The fourth component on the other hand, would seek to improve public/private dialogue on improving the competitiveness of the economy," Mr. Bascombe surmised.

The Project Coordinator expressed the hope that a Medium-Term Competitiveness Strategy would be developed based on the ideas thrown out by the technocrats during discussions to be held on component four.

On the subject of inculcating a culture of competitiveness, the Coordinator summed it up this way: "To quote one writer, the road to competitiveness is like a marathon and not a sprint…therefore, we will not see the benefits immediately after the four years.?? Most of these benefits will materialise when people change their way of doing things and make adjustments in their attitudes and this is something that will take time.

"We can spend US $11.8 million on the latest equipment and technology, but if workers do not see the need for themselves to be more productive, then we really would have embarked on a futile exercise," Mr. Bascombe underlined.

He expressed the hope that the talks to be held with the various constituents of the BCP, would inculcate the need for citizens to embrace the ideal of being more competitive in all spheres of activity.

Mr. Bascombe noted that the current programme might not capture all those areas which the public may conceive as necessary to improving competitiveness within four years.

He added: "We have been getting feedback that the current programme may not necessarily achieve competiveness as defined by some persons and we too are of the view that a four year programme, designed in the way that the BCP is, may not necessarily improve all aspects of competitiveness.

"We are of the view, however, that this programme provides a good starting point for improving competitiveness; while alerting the general population about the importance of improving competitiveness in Barbados. Once we have successfully implemented this first project, then there may be a need to consider a second exercise, to fill the gaps that were observed during the implementation of this first project.?? In other words, there can be a Barbados Competitiveness Programme part two," Mr. Bascombe pointed out.

The initiative is just one of a number of measures introduced by government that will boost economic development over the long-term.

julie.wilson@barbados.gov.bb

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