Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, wants to see an end to small business people being excluded from the negotiating table when contracts for large projects are awarded.
He made the comment while addressing the launch of the Barbados Contractors and Artisans Co-operative Society Limited at Infinity on the Beach Hotel, St. Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, recently.
Mr. Symmonds mentioned a long-standing situation where the consolidation of wealth had led to the exclusion of several businesses in construction and other related fields.
“When contracts were awarded to contractors, there is nobody in this room or nobody at this head table whose name would have been called as a contractor. Equally, when or if artisans were called to do work on these building sites, they would have been no artisans in this room who would have been called to participate in that,” he observed.
He continued: “Over and over again, we embark on a multi-million-dollar exercise to put up a high-rise but that high-rise was built to the exclusion of the vast majority of people in this country who are part of the sector. That is how wealth became consolidated. It was a questionable model because there were substantial losses… Now the situation has to be corrected by bringing opportunity to those who were previously excluded.”
The Minister added that the excuse that ‘the ordinary black contractor is too small to get the equipment to do a particular job’ or is ‘too small to mobilise to find the capital to get a project of this magnitude off the ground’ must no longer be accepted.
“If a man does not have an opportunity to grow larger, he would always remain small and if you methodically put obstacles in the path of contractors and artisans on the basis that they don’t have equipment, they can’t mobilise capital, they can’t leverage finance…They will never be in a position to leverage finance…they will never own the equipment…they will never have the capacity and eventually what will happen, they will fall into the realm of extinction,” he warned.
Meanwhile, President of the Barbados Contractors and Artisans Cooperative Society Limited, Michael Harris, Jr. Lamented the non-awarding of contracts among small contractors and made a case for members of the association to unite.
“We in this cooperative need some opportunities…We need to unite and stop the disconnect!” Mr. Harris emphasised.