Entrepreneurs have been reminded that Government can only create an enabling environment but they have to take advantage of the available opportunities.

These were key messages sent to the private sector yesterday by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, at the start of a one-day Validation Seminar of the Barbados Services Export Project at the Accra Beach Hotel. It was entitled "Strengthening the Capacity of Barbadian Services Suppliers to compete effectively in the European Union (EU) and other Developed Markets".

The seminar was aimed at assisting Barbadian services suppliers to become more knowledgeable about EU markets and to be better equipped to export services effectively to EU member states. Senator McClean told participants: "It is you, the consultants and other services suppliers who must go forth and take advantage of the business opportunities."

The Foreign Minister recalled an anecdote "making the rounds in CARICOM" which stated that the CARICOM Secretariat had been getting complaints from regional

consultants that the job opportunity playing field was not level and that foreign consultants were getting most of the work in our region. She said: "However, invitations were published in the print and electronic media requesting regional consultants to submit proposals for a number of regional projects.?? And, unfortunately I must say that the response was rather mixed with expressions of interest in some areas and not in others. In many cases, there were not enough responses to facilitate selection of consultants and the period of advertisement had to be extended."

And, she queried: "Who do we blame for that? Is it the Government or the consultants who need to say we need to find, if we don’t have the skills to write the proposals well or whatever [and] if we need additional resources [we need] ??to come together." The Foreign Minister stressed: "The point I am making is that the time has come for us to assess our weaknesses; recognise our strengths; pool our resources and get on with the job of taking advantage of opportunities; recognising yes, we are sardines in a pool of large sharks, but sardines have survived otherwise we wouldn’t see them in the supermarket – and they have survived up to that point!"

It was further noted that after a rather unexpectedly long period, the selection process was completed and the consultants chosen. ????Ms. McClean disclosed that in subsequent interactions with stakeholders, a number of consultants claimed that they were not aware of the calls for proposals and even admitted that they did not read newspapers or monitor the internet for such notices.

She explained: "Those comments were instructive given the many opportunities that exist or are emerging from trade agreements, which we have signed with other countries and can mostly be found in the media and on the internet. Services suppliers, professionals like you who are here this morning, must seek out these opportunities, you must become familiar with the procurement rules, you must prepare proposals, and you must submit bids.

"If you are not willing to acquire knowledge about the procedures and the markets and to participate in the process, then you should not complain about lack of opportunity or about projects going to Europeans or Americans or Canadians. The moral of the story goes beyond regional calls for proposals or contracts because if you are unable to access information on such opportunities in our region, the possibility of successfully prospecting for business outside of the region is not good."

??In light of this, Senator McClean said she was optimistic that individuals monitored the internet, the print media etc for possible business. "One of the advantages of modern communications is that you can identify opportunities and successfully bid on, execute and deliver projects without physically entering the country to which the completed project is being delivered," the Foreign Minister declared.??jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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