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by Emmanuel Joseph

The head of this island’s largest privately-held company is suggesting that some businesses in Barbados are in a position to help pull the economy out of recession, sooner than later.

Managing Director of Chefette Restaurants, Ryan Haloute said this morning during a presentation of $16,000 worth of items to four schools at its corporate offices on the Harbour Road, that one of the problems related to the recession, was merely a mental block on the part of some.

“We think a lot of the challenges right now, is a mental block, a confidence issue; so if companies were to start spending money and expanding, hiring more people, it might give the public a little more confidence, (that) we’re coming out. Because, if we don’t try that then who we leaving it up to, one person? It’s going to be very challenging,” the business leader submitted.

“So we are going to set the tone for our company. We are going to put our best foot forward, expand, help the communities more and hopefully that would build confidence in the country and we will come out this recession sooner, rather than later.”

Pointing out that Chefette has never laid off workers in its more than 41-year existence, Haloute reminded principals and students attending today’s presentation, that the firm was in the process of opening a 15th restaurant at Welches, St. Thomas, early next year, bringing its total workforce to 800. He said if one were to examine his company’s history, one would find that the business expanded more during the troughs, rather than during the peaks.

“But it has to do with other factors. One you must have the capital or you must be able to borrow the capital. Two, you must have a brand that when you expand, people would come to it. So I know it is not straight forward to say expand. But there are some out there who can,” he contended.

“The key is, (it’s) not business as usual. You can’t be doing whatever you are doing in your industry as usual. You have to try different things, whether it’s through the community, through different forms of advertising, or different offerings, expanding your menu or portfolio, whatever your business is, you must try different things,” asserted the fast-food administrator.

“We are not one to cry. The harder the economy gets, the more you will see Chefette out there in terms of the community, in terms of our buildings are going to get painted more frequently, our car parks are going to get painted more frequently, we are going to have more specials, more menu items. So it basically says, you are running a race and if Usain Bolt shows up, you know you’ve got to put on your best shoes,” Haloute declared.

Using the Bolt analogy, the managing director said Chefette would therefore continue to shine, rather than pointing fingers at who was, or was not to blame for any particular problem. Instead, he added, “we will get out there and do something”.

“Because if everybody was to complain, nothing will get done,” argued the head of a company that boasts of employing 750 Barbadians and operating 14 restaurants across this island. Haloute said Chefette believes it leads the way in helping local communities and expansion of its business.

The chief executive officer of one of the island’s conglomerates also agreed with Haloute that a lot of the challenges being faced by Barbados had to do with confidence or a lack of it, in the economy.

CEO of Banks Holdings, Richard Cozier said, however, that in order to return confidence, there had to be a consistency in the messages being sent to the business community and to Barbadians in general.

“One day we are being told X, then later, we are told Y. The recent budget was a case in point. You had new taxes, then there was an error; this one (tax) is different, like the stabalisation tax where the minister is saying one thing and the Commissioner of Inland Revenue is saying something else,” Cozier asserted.

He said, too, that the confidence issue was a chicken and egg situation, where businesses had to gain the confidence of the consumer and vice versa.

“People are not going to spend in an economy where you are worrying about people going home, or businesses shutting down. There is nothing definitive that ‘A’ or ‘B’ is correct to address the economic challenge, because there is a school of thought that we need a stimulus package to get people spending and another that there should be austerity measures to curb spending and avoid the possible use of foreign exchange on imported goods,” noted the prominent business leader.

Cozier believes that whatever prescription is applied, the key was what the country can afford. “It comes down to what the country can afford,” the Banks Holdings CEO reasoned.

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