Manufacturers, private sector respond to St Lucia duties hike

Let your wallets do the talking!

That’s the call from the head of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) to Barbadians amidst a recent move by St Lucia to impose a 70 per cent duty on products coming from more developed countries, as the chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA), Alex McDonald, urged consumers to buy local.

Executive director of the BMA, Bobbi McKay, told Barbados TODAY it was time Barbadians “wake up” and support more locally manufactured products. However, she stopped short of calling for a boycott of products out of the neighbouring Caribbean island.

Last week, St Lucia instituted the high duties that would affect products such as brewed beverages, solar water heating systems and aerated beverages manufactured in Barbados. Already, Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) says it is feeling the effects and could lose the St Lucia market for its Banks beers and Tiger Malt products.

McKay said while she understood that countries that still considered themselves less developed countries in the OECS had a right to impose duties on items from more developed countries, now was not the time for such duties given the current recession.

And while there was not much she could do in her capacity at the moment, McKay said she would continue to “quietly lobby” against the move.

“Barbadians can lobby with us,” said McKay “Barbadians can speak with their wallets. St Lucia sells us over $5 million in beer per year. We welcome everything into Barbados with open arms . . . the only way we can speak right now is with our wallets,” she added.

Asked if she was suggesting a boycott McKay would only say: “Why not?”

She added, however: “Until we can solve this, we have to do whatever we can. It is about Barbadian jobs. We have been saying this for a long time and Barbadians really have not been listening until each time we get a crisis they sit up and say, ‘Oh I understand’.”

She said besides supporting locally manufactured products “the best solution” at the diplomatic level was for countries that considered themselves less developed to “graduate”.

“Our point is, back in 1973 and 1974 I could understand the need for lesser developed country status but right now we are truly all on the same level playing field. We are all in the recession and experiencing challenges. The companies that are being protected in the OECS are not small mom and pop operations, they are large multinationals that are being sheltered by the OECS,” McKay charged.

“Other counties in the region understand the importance of protecting local jobs. We don’t. We want to show we have a certain lifestyle and we want anything we see on television but we do not look at the impact on jobs when we make those decisions,” said McKay.

Meanwhile McDonald expressed alarm at the recent move by St Lucia and told a press conference today that Barbadians should realize the need for greater support of locally made products.

“My view is a very simple one I understand that commerce must be done and we encourage everybody who does that, but there does come a time when you have to say let us support our own even more. I don’t think that our Private Sector Association is one for counter tariffs and counter this. I think our positive way is let us support our own even more. We have the capacity to say we will pass on that brew for now and we will support our own . . . . While the negotiations are being done I would encourage all of those who are minded to support our own,” explained McDonald.

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