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Cost-U-Less could cost jobs

A local competitor of the recently opened foreign retail store Cost-U-Less, believes its presence here, will put the jobs of hundreds of Barbadians at risk.

Operations Manager of ShopsMart, Mark Niles, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that “if you have Barbadian owned companies which cannot compete with Cost-U-Less because of the Government concessions they are getting, you run the risk of having to close down because you can’t compete”.

“Government has to look at the economic model it is using where Cost-U-Less is concerned. It is better if companies in the manufacturing sector are targeted instead of the distributive sector, which has a long and proud record,” Niles asserted.

He suggested that the duties which that foreign retailer was being exempted from paying, was like giving local businesses a bicycle to ride in a race where Cost-U-Less was driving a Ferarri.

“Cost-U-Less is paying no duties on most items imported such as motor cars and forklifts. They have a massive edge on Barbadian owned companies. We would like the Government to extend some of those concession to us. Cost-U-Less is bringing nothing new to Barbados; they are not offering anything different,” argued Niles.

The business executive also observed that Barbadian owned companies like ShopsMart keep all their profits in the country.

“We pay company taxes, import duties and VAT,” concluded the ShopsMart operations manager.

However, he is of the view, that if foreign companies like Cost-U-Less were allowed to set up shop in Barbados, “all we are asking for, is a level playing field”.

Those sentiments were echoed by the president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lalu Vaswani this afternoon during a separate interview with this newspaper.

“The Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomes foreign direct investment, especially where it adds value to the country,” Vaswani stated.

However, he noted that the continuing concern was always to ensure that investments were done in a way that did not disadvantage existing businesses in the same sector.

The chamber president said he was particularly worried about the “unequal” treatment of players in the local market. He reasoned that when this happened, it could create a distortion, particularly in the distributive sector in the long term.

Cost-U-Less opened its doors to the public over the weekend, resulting in thousands flocking to the store to either shop or “check things out”.

Many of those interviewed by Barbados TODAY, reported that prices were low on some items, specifically fruits and vegetables and frozen snacks such as hot dogs and sausages.

Management of the company has said they paid the “same” taxes, including VAT, as “everybody else”. (EJ)†

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