??Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler, delivers the feature address at the launch of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre today. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Government is doing all in its power to ensure this country is ready to face the challenging times ahead by embarking on a Competitiveness Programme.

The joint initiative was launched today by Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Chris Sinckler, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. The programme, to be executed in four years, will see US$11.8 million earmarked to facilitate its implementation.?? Some US$10 million is being provided in the form of a loan by the Inter-American Bank (IDB), while Government will provide the remaining US$1.8 million.

In his address, Mr. Sinckler emphasised that in the wake of the global economic realities, Barbados had to change its way of doing business in order to compete effectively. He said: "We have to move hastily to reform our domestic business and financial environment; improve our human resource capacity; develop our technological infrastructure; embrace innovation; strengthen our instruments and institutions of oversight and to generally modify our modus operandi."

The Finance Minister stated that the 2010 Global Competitiveness Report, published by the World Economic Forum, placed Barbados higher than any of its regional counterparts at number 43 out of 131 countries. "The fact that we are ranked considerably lower with respect to innovation at 53rd; good market efficiency (55th, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); business sophistication (59th) and market size (133rd) denotes that there is still much room for improvement," he observed.

In light of this, Mr. Sinckler maintained the scheme would also seek to address any bottlenecks that affected the efficiency of the movement of goods in

Barbados, as well as support other trade and investment promotion activities to promote export development and increase private investment.

He said that as far as competitiveness was concerned, innovation was important since it could "positively impact product quality, lower the cost of production, raise productivity and profitability and create opportunities to increase market share". The Finance Minister also said that support for the creation of new business development architecture for small and medium-sized business would be provided under the initiative.

Concerning complaints in relation to the "overly complex process of obtaining approvals for residential and commercial construction and refurbishment from the Town and Country Development Planning Office", Mr. Sinckler promised "that the noticeable inefficiencies, wherever they may exist will be eliminated".

Regarding any perceived inefficiencies at the ports of entry and the "cumbersome nature of our customs procedures," He announced that an Electronic Single Window (a devise that represents a single point for data entry processing and retrieval) would be introduced to enhance processes of efficiency.

"This, along with the construction of a central container examination facility and supporting upgrades to the technologies at the Customs and Excise Department, the sea port and other relevant institutions, is expected to reduce costs associated with delays and storage, improve productivity, increase transparency, facilitate government revenue collection, …also increase business profitability, lower final consumer prices, improve domestic market share and raise consumer satisfaction," the Finance Minister outlined.

The medium-term Competitiveness Programme will also support an initiative to improve and introduce a geographical concentration of interconnected businesses, suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in the form of a cluster model. The model is expected to lower operating costs, stimulate innovation, promote research and development, encourage training, and facilitate market penetration and economy-wide competitiveness and growth.

The programme aims to support business development in this country by improving logistics and trade facilitation, lowering the cost of the movement of goods and people, rationalising the incentive system and regulations, and enhancing access to infrastructure through public/private dialogue.

The loan agreement was signed on March 21, 2010. (CL/BGIS)


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