Room for improvement
A meagre 0.9 per cent of the total 60 per cent of the assets and liabilities in Caribbean international financial services centres is what Barbados manages.
At least, those were the most recent figures for 2009, which suggested the island’s international business sector had great room for improvement. And Ryle Weekes, president of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), has suggested that he was not satisfied enough was being done to grow the sector here.
Notwithstanding that, Weekes lauded the efforts over the past four decades, saying that Barbados had established itself as a reputable, well-regulated jurisdiction attracting over 4,000 international business entities ranging from energy, insurance, banking and mining. Weekes was giving remarks at the fourth annual Barbados International Business and Financial Services (IBFS) sector conference at the Central Bank of Barbados on Wednesday.
The theme was The Barbados IBFS Centre: Moving Beyond Pass To FIrst Class.
“We have indeed earned a pass on the scorecard of our international financial service centre. However, even as we build our sector up over the years other jurisdiction in the region and beyond have been hard at work transforming industries into formidable international business hubs. With their first-rate business facilitation capabilities, nimble legislative machinery and sophisticated marketing brands these competitors have leapfrogged ahead of us and are claiming a growing share of the global economic pie,” outlined Weekes.
“To put this into perspective Caribbean international financial centres manage about 60 per cent of international financial flows. But according to an International Monetary Fund portfolio of investment survey, Barbados held just 0.09 per cent of the managed assets and liabilities within the purview of Caribbean international financial services centres in 2009. This was in marked contrast with the Cayman Island with 72.6 per cent or even the Bahamas with 0.68 per cent”.
He said: “When you compare Barbados’ $50 billion under management in 2008 with the $800 billion in the Bahamas, you can understand why BIBA continues to trumpet that there remain tremendous potential for exponential growth in our international business and financial services sector. Moreover, this type of growth is sustainable, environmentally friendly and only requires the expansion of our intellectual territory”.
Outlining the contributions the sector make to the economy through stay-over visitors and corporation taxes, Weekes said: “Our modern complex economy requires constant growth to fuel social and financial benefits we enjoy everyday. Therefore it is imperative that we achieve growth in international business and financial services sector”.
Weekes said they were now operating “in an age of disruption”, adding that even as officials come up with “a strategic symbiotic relationship between Barbados and Canada, comfortable return to the status quo is unlikely”.
“BIBA supports all efforts to forge new markets with new treaties and products as we have all witnessed for the past few weeks the ramifications of placing all of our eggs in one basket,” said Weekes, suggesting that developed countries could soon implement new measures to plug what may be considered tax revenue leakages.
Weekes said Barbados’ economic resilience was “extremely dependent on how responsive and adoptive we are to the changes that are coming at us so furiously”.