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Call for Barbados to relax Immigration rules

Just days after authorities suggested that a move would be made to clamp down on imported talent, an economist has called for Immigration laws to be relaxed to attract more human resources into Barbados.

President of the Barbados Economic Society (BES), Jeremy Stephen, said if Barbados’ economy was to grow, then it should join in the international “war” for talent while ensuring greater business facilitation.

On Tuesday, officials overseeing the implementation of the Barbados Human Resource Development Strategy (HRDS) said based on discussions with stakeholders it was felt that it was necessary to meet with officials in the Immigration Department to see what areas people from overseas were being employed so they could train people locally to fill those posts instead.

However, responding to questions following a presentation at the ACCA’s voluntary members’ network inaugural event at the Hilton Resort today, Stephen suggested that Barbados should be more welcoming to both investors and skilled workers.

Citing Chile as one of the “best case studies” in relation to good government systems and “free market economics”, Stephen said as a percentage of GDP Chile was perhaps the place in the Western Hemisphere where most investments were going.

“Because they make a concentrated effort to establish a state that did the following: focus on business first, so the ease of doing business and inviting talent into the country,” he said.

“The thing is that they are not short on talent but they recognize that the war now is not on other resources. It is on human resources. America, via [the American] Jobs Act, has begun to realize it that the war is not on resources.  It is capital that moves. I can own a farm in China I don’t need a farm here,” added Stephen.

He said: “We have to understand the war is on talent. And as being a major facilitator Government here in Barbados will have to recognize it, and yes, I am calling for a relaxing of the Immigration rules to Barbados [to accommodate the] importation of talent,” said Stephen, also highlighting the development of Singapore and what that government did in the 1980s.

Though not stating them, Stephen acknowledged that there could be some “issues” associated with  such a  move, but quickly added: “It is about attracting talent, it is about reciprocal growth, it is about being a facilitator and if things go bad we can point the country in another direction.”

The topic for the event was the Effects Of The Auditor General Report On The Confidence Of International Rating Agencies And Foreign Investors. Stephen said when the economy was booming Government should not be the main supporter, but said the onus should be on the private sector to ensure the government was a better facilitator.

The economist said there was no need for any increase in taxes since confidence both in the private and public sectors was “too low right now”.

Stephen also said the Government should focus on dealing with its expenditure and “put controls around the grants don’t cut them”.

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