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Confidence lacking – says businessman

One local paint manufacturer believes many business operators are not being innovative enough and consumers are drawing back on their spending because of a lack of confidence in the local economy.

Moreover, Ian Kenyon, the chief executive officer of Harris Paints, warned today that Barbados was no longer protected from the invasion of overseas firms, as global competition heats up.

In a wide-ranging interview with Barbados TODAY, Kenyon said urgent action was now required to put the island back on a growth path.

“The most important thing is that any market lives on confidence. And people have to feel confident in the future of the state. The reason people are pulling back . . . is because people don’t feel confident,” said Kenyon.

“They have less money in their pockets and they are just feeling less confident in the future. So I think the more that they can do to improve confidence levels in everybody, the approximately 300,000 people that live on the island, then I believe that things are going to be fixed,” he advised.

Kenyon said there was a growing passion among Barbadians to make things better, but they were somewhat “suppressed by inertia”.

“Not rhetoric, not talk. [People need] tangible actions that really make a dent in the things that have been well documented and stated by many businesspeople from different industries . . . . The Government just need to pick one or two of them and make it happen. We are too much of a debating society and not much of action,” he said.

Despite the lack of confidence, Kenyon urged local business operators to take the necessary risk and to invest in innovative ideas. This, he said, was critical if they were to adequately compete with regional and international firms.

Kenyon said Harris Paints took a leap of faith when it invested millions into its latest innovation –– the Ultima Plus paint, adding that once a need was identified in the market, companies should move to meet that need despite their fears.

“We encourage more businesses to take that plunge,” he said. “If we can do it, my challenge to other businesses is that you can do it too”.

Kenyon also stated that the education system needed to change in order to ensure the island’s future was secure, adding that a lot of companies in developed countries could be looking to set up shop in Barbados and the rest of the region soon.

“So we have to be as good, if not better than them in terms of the training and trends combined with the local knowledge and culture,” said Kenyon.

“Barbados has got to move from a mindset that ‘we are a bubble that is protected’ because you are not . . . . The world will be coming into the Caribbean sooner than the Caribbean would like,” he said.

Kenyon added: “Some things are long-term and some are short-term. The best countries and best companies –– they do both. The models are out there but what Barbados has got to do is reach out to the people that have the knowledge and bring them in for a period of time and pluck their brains full of all the knowledge. It is all there.”

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