Adrian Loveridge Column – Improving Our Investment Climate
I want to return to the subject of implementing a single source website for prospective investors, especially those of a smaller scale, both from overseas and locally. Frankly, even for the most determined and tenacious, investing in Barbados remains a daunting task for virtually everyone when so much could be made easier, less time consuming and completed online.
It starts with the number of Government agencies that you are forced to deal with and in many cases their indeterminate response time. Often the delays lead to some of the required information being out-of-date, before all the requested documentation can be sourced, at any one time.
Facilitation in a timely manner is always important, but during the prolonged pandemic situation, it becomes even more critical, as foreign investors who understandably have become a rarer breed, clearly have multiple destination choices, especially in tourism.
My own thoughts are that every serious investor is granted a unique application online number with defined access, where all involved Government agencies can post verification of information and any other prerequisite requirements. It would also serve as a platform to confirm that ‘duty free’ and/or exemption of import duties, levies and VAT status had been granted to the applicants. This would help expedite customs clearance, construction or renovations, rather than risk costly delays, while the administration ‘considers’ individual or separate requests.
Most investment requires borrowed capital, so the clock starts ticking with interest payable, usually from day one, so any delays negatively affects the viability of the project.
Government has to decide that if ‘we’ really wish to project an investor friendly environment, that radical reform is needed within our existing administration and during this challenging period when many of our public servants are not fully utilized there is the perfect opportunity to effectuate reform and innovation.
It is simply not enough to give the impression that as a country, we welcome with open arms, both foreign and local investment, if the many layers of bureaucracy act as a major deterrent to inspiring entrepreneurs.
Perhaps the first step would be to glean first- hand experience from the people who have already transformed their dream into a business reality and fully evaluate the current impediments.
After all, Government coffers are greatly enhanced from the very moment that an investor commits to a venture through the collection of various taxes and levies on property purchase including stamp duty, transfer tax, non-recoverable VAT on legal and advisory fees etc.
In our particular case, over $400,000 was paid to the state recently for the completion of a sale to new owners.