Drop in business in the city

President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Lalu Vaswani
President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Lalu Vaswani

There is a declining demand for business in the island’s main shopping centre — Bridgetown.

And the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry has blamed that on the existence of several empty office spaces from which lucrative businesses once operated.

President of the chamber, Lalu Vaswani, told Barbados TODAY that while the level of rents was a factor, it was not the main reason.

“It is the economic downturn which has resulted in a decline in the demand for business. We are trying to work with our clients (who are experiencing hard times) and reaching out to potential ones,” said Vaswani.

“We need to find ways of stimulating the sectors that generate foreign exchange. The protracted nature of the economic decline has caused a lot of the resources to be eroded.”

He suggested that there came a point when businesses had no resources, and they had to take drastic decisions, such as layoffs or putting employees on short time.

“That is why the chamber is encouraging businesses to invest in areas that generate growth…, and reduce costs, such as by greening. We must avoid at all costs, putting businesses in a position where they have to close.

“We need some action to stimulate economic activity. There is economic activity which generate foreign exchange and economic activity which use foreign exchange. So we have to find the balance,” the head of the corporate sector body asserted.

Vaswani reasoned that the chamber’s revitalaisation of Bridgetown initiative was one measure it was implementing in order to bring back business to the once bustling commercial centre.

“Can you imagine what Bridgetown would have been like if we did not introduce this (programme) earlier?” he asked.

The chamber president also suggested what he termed a novel idea, which he said he believed could help boost business in the city.

“The idea is not to give up hope. Employees themselves should find ways of stimulating business for the companies with which they work. We are all in this together,” Vaswani argued.

He pointed out, too, that enterprises ought to start seriously considering means of reducing their costs and focus on exports.

In 2010, an official survey showed that there were 2,000 businesses in Bridgetown that employed 9,000 people. While the organisation has not conducted an updated study, Vaswani noted that these figures most likely would have decreased. (EJ)

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