The cost of doing business, not confidence, is the biggest problem facing corporate Barbados.
Heading the list of concerns for Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados President, David Simpson, is the heavy price accountants and other local professionals are forced to pay to travel throughout the Caribbean.
The official is also concerned about the current level of taxation in Barbados, saying he was raising these issues in the context of the island needing to become more competitive.
While there is a view among economists, business executives and others that business confidence here has taken a major hit, Simpson said the main issue was that the cost of doing business was simply too high.
He was speaking to the media when ICAB held a press conference at its Hastings, Christ Church offices.
“I think businesses right now just need to see new and innovative ways and services, whether we are talking the tourism industry, we are talking any other services; new and innovative ways need to be found,” he said.
“I don’t think that there is any lack of confidence in the Barbadian economy in terms of setting up business, I think in recent times a big concern has been the cost of doing business in the country compared to any other location that I can opt to locate my business … so I think that is the bigger issue.
“Barbados has a long standing reputation for being a very stable country politically and economically, I think despite a recession it is safe to say we have not been faced with some of the economic hardship that some of our neighbours have been and we haven’t had any political turmoil to compare to what some of our neighbours have seen.”
Simpson’s view was that Barbados was stable economically, which itself “inspires a lot of confidence”, as did the fact the country remained “an attractive place to live for a lot of people”.
“So we are not concerned about the confidence, what we are concerned about more so is private and public sector’s abilities to stimulate the economy, get people spending, and get people comfortable to the point where they say, ‘well my job is secure, there is no uncertainty in terms of security of tenure and so on because of a recession and that I can spend money knowing where money will come from on an ongoing basis’,” he stated.
“So I think it is more just people working through what has become a lengthy recession and the caution then everybody would tend to adopt. A lot of companies are focussing on how to keep their costs down and in check and there is more analysis being done on that aspect of the business now, even more so than profitability.
“We look at it from the point of view of Barbados needing to become a more competitive economy, not just for business but also for living as well and being able to carry out business, start business, and invite investors into our country.”
Simpson said a key component of this competitiveness quest was productivity and efficiency and he noted that ICAB believed “the public sector for sure and the private sector, to some extent, need to look at the size of their organisations and the efficiency with which they use the resources that they have”.
“This is not a call to lay people off or to reduce the size of work forces necessarily, but it is to look at your operations and see ‘how can I get more output for the same cost or for less cost’,” he said..
“I think part of the problem is that we have all sat back and expected one group of people to come up with the solution and unfortunately that one group of people has tended to be the government…
“The issues that surround all of these things really and truly lie within a high degree of cooperation between public sector and private sector, but also by having citizens aware of what the challenges are and seeking to make changes at their level.” (SC)