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Barbados seeks more T&T investment
Now is the time to invest in Barbados, that country’s Minister of Industry, International Business and Commerce Donville Inniss said yesterday when he addressed the quarterly luncheon meeting of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce at Westmoorings. “Members of this Chamber, I say to you, what may seem as challenges in the Barbados economy...is an opportunity. Now is the time to invest.”
Inniss said people from around the world are buying up multi-million dollar properties in Barbados. He acknowledged that investors are “not on a mission of charity” and assured Chamber members that they would get returns on their investments. He urged the private sector to lead development in Barbados. “Barbados is open and ready for your business,” he said His opinion that Barbados is now ripe for investment was shared by past and present presidents of the T&T Chamber.
Over coffee before the start of the event, former president Andrew Sabga told reporters now is a good time to invest in Barbados, consistent with a “buy low and sell high” strategy. Current president Moonilal Lalchan said although credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s had lowered of its “long-term rating on Barbados,” T&T investors should not be deterred.
Inniss said he was T&T to talk “about the Barbados economy, to show appreciation to T&T investors and to welcome more investment from T&T.” He said T&T had invested Bds$70 million in 2011 but he believes the figure is now much higher. He listed the number of sectors in which T&T businesses have deep investments in Barbados. In a brief moment of introspection, he said: “When things were very good in Barbados, we should have invested more in Trinidad.”
Inniss said T&T’s exports to Barbados have been increasing, from approximately US$345 million in 2011 to US$464 million last year. Barbados’ exports to T&T have also been climbing, from US$39 million in 2011 to US$45 million in 2013. He said most of T&T’s exports to Barbados were oil and gas-related.
The Barbadian government minister told chamber members the economic situation in Barbados was the result of the “deep and prolonged global recession of 2008.” He said “interlocking relations created the economic vortex within which we have been functioning in Barbados.” As a result, tourist arrivals, on which the Barbados economy depends, had been negatively affected.
Inniss said the international financial services sector in Barbados also “took a hit” and years after the meltdown, the region is still feeling the effects. He also told business people that Barbados intends to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and create a strong safety net going forward. He said his government intends to reduce the national budget deficit to two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020 and achieve three per cent growth by 2015. Growth in 2014 is expected to be flat, Inniss added.
He said his government is “committed to a programme of reduction of transfers and subsidies,” and while it has introduced various tax programmes, the notion that it is focused exclusively on cuts is false. He said “given the size of the state in the Barbados economy, drastic cuts will further contract the economy,” and this is not his governments intention. On the positive, Inniss said tourism is picking back up. “Hotels in Barbados have been reporting occupancy rates that they have not seen in years,” he said.
“Barbados is beginning to pick up and look good again.” He said also of note is that Barbados will be signing on to comply with FATCA-US legislation to get local banks to report on US citizens and residents with assets held overseas. On public infrastructure, Inniss said Barbados “will continue to make investments in public infrastructure.” He said Barbados will be investing US$317 million in public infrastructure over the next three years and a further US$1.1 billion will be invested through public-private-partnerships.