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Moving to a more proactive private sector

In the economic model followed by Barbados, the private sector is assigned the crucial role of “engine of growth”.  In other words, society is saying to the private sector: “You are responsible for taking the lead, which involves exposing yourself to risks, in order to generate economic activity for the good of the country.”

Business activity supports the overriding national objective of promoting and achieving economic growth. It satisfies market demand for goods and services, drives spending which causes money to flow through the economy, creates employment for the population, and generates tax revenue for Government to finance its operations and spend on vital public services.

Business activity is also the major determinant of changes in the gross domestic product (GDP), the commonly used yardstick for measuring an economy’s performance. If there is a sustained increase in business activity, the impact on GDP is usually positive in the form of growth. On the other hand, if business activity is sluggish or in decline, the impact on growth is negative.

Against this backdrop, one naturally would expect the private sector to be generally proactive in seeking to influence the environment for conducting business. This happens for sure in developed countries where the business community engages in continuous advocacy, lobbying, and so on to get government decision-makers in particular to adopt policies that make it easier and more rewarding to do business.

Regrettably, it is not so in Barbados and the Caribbean. Though there are some encouraging signs of change, the private sector historically has waited on Government for the cue when, in fact, it should be driving the engine. That is why a call this week from the executive director of Caribbean Export, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, for the Barbados and regional private sector to “own and drive the agenda” is so timely and important.

She made the call as she proposed that the private sector should spearhead the creation of a special court to adjudicate on business-related matters, which it should either fully or jointly finance with Government. The proposal was put forward as a solution to get around the current backlog of cases in the regular court system that has been holding up business decisions and hurting the island’s competitiveness.

“It could be done at the Barbados level or . . . at the regional level, but I think it would be important to set up something like that to enable the process to be more quickly addressed rather than 1,340 days for a contract to be seen through, and that is at the best. It will increase our competitiveness and viability,” Coke-Hamilton told the annual general meeting of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Caribbean Export executive director also highlighted the need for mindset change on the part of the private sector.

“A part of the difficulty is that the private sector, unfortunately, does not see that it ought to put money into some of the things that need to be changed and they expect the government, which is under severe pressure, to do what is in your benefit. . . .

“If I am the private sector and I have a vested interest in making billions more than I am currently making, why wouldn’t I put some money in the game?” she asked. “There has to be a point where the private sector, whether in Barbados or in the region generally, begins to own . . . and drive the agenda. It cannot just be Government, and it cannot just be regional institutions because there is no money . . . . There has to be a partnership.”

In our view, another area where the private sector can make a major contribution in relation to the economy is through the establishment and financing of think tanks, which are important research and advocacy organizations in developed countries. A lot of the ideas shaping public policy in countries like the United States, Canada and Britain emerge from research and position papers produced by think tanks like the Conference Board.

Why can’t Barbados have a private sector-financed think tank that does research and puts out reports on economic performance, especially to coincide with when the Central Bank and Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs give their versions of economic reality? Such would be a welcome contribution to facilitating more balanced and informed debate on the economy in the country.

We hope the private sector seriously considers Coke-Hamilton’s call to start owning and driving the agenda. Such a refreshing change of mindset and modus operandi would be a welcome sign that the private sector is modernizing its approach to boldly face the reality of globalization and getting fully into the driver’s seat of the economic engine.

3 Responses to Moving to a more proactive private sector

  1. Tony Webster May 29, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    While all possible solutions to the inertia, malaise, and in the case of Barbados, the “chronic global downturn”, I really struggle to comprehend exactly how the regional private sector (whatever entity this is, or might be, being a complete mystery to me) is to “spearhead the setting up of a special court” ..financed either partly or wholly but the same private sector whose cases shall be thereby decided.

    Please pray tell whatever happened to the silly notion advocating separations amongst the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary….on the way to the court? This sort of “innovative thinking” should be added to the criminal statute-books, crime, as it sure gives me a king-sized boggling headache.

    Mind you, if I had a case that needed “fast-tracking”… And some judge was depending on my company to deposit their salary somewhere come “pay-day”… I ‘d certainly give it a good twirl.

  2. Wayne Webster May 30, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    I think my brother, Tony has raised some very valid “points of order” that need to be answered before this “suggestion” can be placed on the agenda … come again please with specifics. If not, table the matter indefinitely. Not worthy of consideration at this juncture – as it stands.

  3. Patrick Blackman June 1, 2015 at 7:17 am

    The private sector finds it much easier to be leaches on the government than to be proactive. Always crying out for concessions etc. In such small economies it is much better to be proactive through consolidation, too many people doing the same thing and expecting to be successful in this tiny spec of an economy.

    Yes, there is a great need for a change in mindset. We cannot think in terms of local economy, it has to be regionally focus and then extended internationally. The only people who think locally are the people who have no idea how the world see us.


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