Private sector jittery, says Gale
The business community continues to be jittery, as the economy shows no signs of recovering, according to outgoing Executive Director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Lisa Gale.
In her final message as head of the business grouping, Gale expressed disappointment at the snail’s pace at which Government was moving to iron out a range of private sector issues and concerns, including high debt levels “and the attendant debt servicing that is necessary”.
“Equally worrisome is the declining foreign exchange cover. We continue to look forward to better fiscal consolidation, growth in investments, better business facilitation and significant boost to the foreign exchange standings,” said Gale, who demits office on March 31.
“Even more recent is the discussions surrounding the fallout with the Minister of Finance [Chris Sinckler] and the Governor [of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr DeLisle Worrell]. At the collective private sector organization level our main question is, what next, given that we can all see that the managers of the economy are either not making the best or hard decisions.”
The business executive suggested that there was very little comfort in the promise that several major investments in the tourism industry that were scheduled to jump-start the ailing construction sector this year would get started, pointing out that “we have been hearing of these projects for some time now”.
She also expressed concern that there was still “no firm date as to when the Customs and Excise Department will be merging with the Barbados Revenue Authority”.
However, Gale gave the assurance that the BCCI would continue to be a voice on behalf of the private sector in demanding answers.
“Last year saw very slow resolution to several of our members’ issues. The main challenges related to facilitation and outstanding payments. We felt pressed to be constantly bombarding Government amidst little feedback received,” she said.
Gale highlighted the National Social Responsibility Levy and its applicability and computation; outstanding Value Added Tax and payments for goods provided by Government; delays in processing clearance goods at the port leading to increased costs; challenges with the Customs Department; demurrage charges and the spiralling effect on the cost of imported commodities; the National Waste Management plan, challenges to duty-free sales to hotels and increased taxation as issues that remained unresolved.