Betrayal in manufacturing sector

Delays in Government decision-making and manufacturers giving up production to turn to importing inferior goods,  feature as some of the roadblocks to the local industry as the Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA) celebrates 50 years of existence.

BMA President Karlene Nicholls brought these issues to the fore at the organization’s 50th anniversary cocktail and awards gala at Sweetfield Manor, Brittons New Road, St Michael on Saturday night.

BMA president Karlene Nicholls
BMA president Karlene Nicholls

“Of grave concern to us is the developing trend by former manufacturers, with apparently little loyalty or respect for the sector, of flooding the Barbados market with cheap, poor quality imports,” she said.

This practice, Nicholls said, is “all to the deterrent of local producers and manufacturers”.

“In nothing less than betrayal, those who once sought our support and experienced our struggles have heartlessly become instruments geared towards our breaking,”                  she added.

Nicholls said further development of manufacturing in Barbados is dependent on a partnership effort that involves pooling resources, sharing best practices and supporting each other.

With such an approach among manufacturers, the BMA president said: “We will become a cohesive force that drives our national economy, and one to be reckoned with on the world stage.”

But in an apparent reference to government bureaucracy and slow movement to protect local industries, she added: “Too often the delays we experience in having decisions expedited when the livelihood of manufacturers is being threatened, are really unacceptable. Whether [the issue] is t-shirts or burgers … we need to protect our market and ensure that our manufacturers and producers are not disadvantaged.”

“If we don’t protect our own, who will?” asked Nicholls, the Sales Manager at ADM Barbados Mills.

“It sometimes appears as though we are bent on exporting our jobs and contributing to the taxes, deductions and building the economies of others while our own at home suffer.”

Nicholls touched on an often heard call from the manufacturing sector, for a level playing field in production of goods.

“We know that we must be competitive and we are prepared to compete, but it is difficult to do so when countries with subsidies that we can only dream of flood our markets with products that we all know disadvantage us,” she said.

Speaking at the event, Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss threw out an invitation to manufacturers to tell Government what they feel about industry conditions and to do so fearlessly.

Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss
Minister of Industry and Commerce Donville Inniss

“I say, as minister who liaises with the Barbados manufacturing sector, you need to be as engaging as you possibly can be. Never feel that you are a bother . . . to any Government minister, any ministry, or any department. We need to hear from you,” he said.

“I also say to you, do not be afraid to speak out or speak up. . . Feel free to always speak your mind. Never feel that you must cower in a corner.”

He sought to make clear that his Cabinet colleagues and other elected members of Parliament on the government benches welcome frank feedback from those involved in the industry.

“You know there are some very thin-skinned politicians who anytime an organization says something that goes against what they believe is right or offends their ministry or attacks their ministry, they would want to pick up the phone and quarrel with someone and seek to shut you up. That doesn’t happen in the Government that I am part of.”

But he also warned that complaints must be grounded in facts, supporting what manufacturers claim to be wrong, and suggesting how it can be fixed.

“You need to be very research-focused and to bring evidence. We really cannot be groping in the dark, and I believe that the mechanisms are in place that allow for this kind of research to take place . . . Many of the organizations in Barbados need to ensure that they’re very research focused in their work.”

As he congratulated the producers on attaining a golden anniversary, he suggested that they chronicle their history for the benefit of Barbadians in years to come.

“This journey is one that must be captured, not just in a few pictorial displays and a few speeches here and there, but [it] really merits thorough research and writing. I am therefore making a call for us to capture well, the history of the manufacturing sector in Barbados,” he said.

“Write something constructive . . . that captures the vision of the political leaders over the past century or so the kind of individuals who would have led this revolution and the kind of impact that the manufacturing industrial revolution would have had on our economy and on our society.”


8 Responses to Betrayal in manufacturing sector

  1. Jason Bowen
    Jason Bowen July 29, 2014 at 6:08 am

    You guys continue to produce goods that you cannot compete locally or at home with. Goods that require low labour and energy costs which cannot be had in Barbados. You expect subsides so you can compete but will only be detrimental in the long term to Barbados. Its time you change focus and study the market and produce goods that will be competitive and not require Government money to stay in the game.

    • Michael A Clarke
      Michael A Clarke July 29, 2014 at 7:38 am

      Jason Bowen: And pray tell,what those goods would be ???

    • Jason Bowen
      Jason Bowen July 29, 2014 at 7:39 am

      Certainly not bulk sugar and rum

    • Jason Bowen
      Jason Bowen July 29, 2014 at 7:42 am

      We need to concentrate on items that we design and patent and then either produce them in Barbados and could be sold internationally and because of the patenting no one else can produce or sell it anywhere else without paying royalties, There is nothing special in producing bulk Barbados sugar and rum

    • Michael A Clarke
      Michael A Clarke July 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      You have not answered my question.

  2. Heather Cole
    Heather Cole July 29, 2014 at 8:49 am

    This is ironic. Here is Ms Nicholls complaining about governments untimely decision making process that is causing many manufacturers to leave the sector. Then comes the minister to respond and he states that she should inform government of their grievances. Isn’t this his responsibility? Isn’t he the minister of industry? Is there another government in power? His advice to the sector was to write something that captures the vision of political leaders. All I can say is WOW because he too is out of touch with the reality of the suitation. Where is his vision for the sector?

  3. Corey Weekes July 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    @ Jason Bowen,

    You hit the nail on the head there. Our future is in licensing/trademarking ideas and designs which can be produced anywhere. Not in trying to manufacture basic, common items that require significant economies of scale to be profitable. We just don’t have the mass to achieve those economies of scale

  4. Jason Bowen
    Jason Bowen July 29, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Doesn’t boos produce sugar and rum I’m sure when one reads my document I did mention to stop producing it in bulk. We need to make those and everything else we produce unique that we can patent and produce


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