Task force on foreign exchange

Barbados, currently starved of precious foreign exchange, is being urged to establish a task force to provide special and exclusive oversight of this core economic area of the country’s survival.

The suggestion came from Independent senator and former president of the Small Business Association of Barbados, John Watson, while contributing to the debate in the Upper Chamber on the 2014-2015 Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure this afternoon.

Watson argued that such a body would not only have oversight for the earning of foreign exchange, but also for controlling its leakage.

“One of the things I learnt as a youngster is that when you have a critical problem to deal with, you don’t deal with it in the normal way, you deal with it as though it is critical,” the senator pointed out.

“And, I believe,” Watson asserted, “that there are places where it is necessary to have a task force that is concentrating on that critical area that you want to deal with. Foreign exchange is one of those areas . . . I believe that we should have a task force on foreign exchange in Barbados. A task force that would not only talk about earning foreign exchange, but [control] the leakage of foreign exchange.”

The senator is of the view that there is too much foreign exchange earned in Barbados, that either did not get to Barbados or left the island through some “unnecessary way”.

“The tourism sector is the most important sector in Barbados now. I like the idea of the international business sector, for one reason. The international business sector does not use any local currency; at least that is my understanding. Everything that they buy here, they bring the money in to buy; so they bring in a hundred per cent of what they spend in Barbados,” Watson declared.

For him, that is the difference between the tourism sector and the international business industry.

“I think the tourism sector has to find itself in a position where it is giving more than it is taking; and I say that because . . . I find it passing strange . . . . How can you have a sector in Barbados, that is our leading sector, our greatest foreign exchange earning sector, our biggest, most important sector, and yet, it has the highest level of non-performing loans in the banking sector? That doesn’t make all the sense in the world to me.”

Noting that there must be a reason for that, even though he did not understand it, the independent senator asked if the sector was doing well, why was it having so many non-performing loans.

“And I know why, in some cases . . . I know for a fact that there are hotels in Barbados that are foreign-owned and they receive payments for their services, they have a local bank account, yet they have to await the transfer of funds from overseas to that account in order to pay certain bills. So that tells me that the money earned is not going into that bank account.”

Those are the things, he stated, that a foreign exchange task force would be able to deal with.

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