A Heather Cole Column – Can Discriminatory Business Practices be Changed?
This article is not meant to shame anyone but to create awareness that will bring about the much-needed change. This is the second time that I have noticed of late that opportunities in business that fall under state own enterprises discriminate against a wide cross section of the Barbadian public.
The first of the recent observation was back in December last year when I applied to and Ad which stated that the Enhance Credit Guarantee Fund was offering funding. I applied on the behalf of The People’s Agricultural and Business Cooperative Society Ltd to find out if this Agricultural Co-op would qualify for funding.
The response that I received from the Central Bank of Barbados, was that “the support is only for existing businesses incorporated in Barbados.” To this, I responded “The Co-op is in Barbados. It was certified over a year ago by the Registrar of Cooperatives.” To this day there has been no response from the Foreign Exchange and Exchange Credits Department of the Central Bank of Barbados.
Although I let the above slide, I chose this occasion to respond to an article carried in this newspaper on March 31, 2022, under the caption Ocean Innovation Challenge giving thousands of dollars to Blue companies, as this bias is hiding in broad daylight.
Given the fact that the blue economy is relatively new to Barbados and the untapped potential of the ocean is vast since Barbados owns more ocean that it does land, the challenge should therefore be to the entire island.
Why are existing companies singled out to be part of the Ocean Innovation Challenge? Why have entrepreneurs and persons who have ideas not been included? How will the island develop a class of entrepreneurs if the focus is always on existing businesses?
This action is discriminatory, and it says that the ordinary man in Barbados does not have ideas that can be utilized in the creation of a blue economy, and nothing can be further from the truth.
What about the hundreds of fishermen who ply their trade off the coast of Barbados? They know the sea and the ocean better than any business that the challenge is currently offered to. Have you extended your challenge to this entrepreneurial class of Barbadians? If the offer were extended to them one can be positive that they will come up with ideas for business, but they have not been put in a position to accept any challenge.
Not even your being in a partnership with Caribbean Export can be an acceptable response as the criteria must have been agreed to by both partners. I hope this criterion will be revisited soon to be all inclusive as there must be equal opportunities for all Barbadians.
Considering the aforementioned, there is an opportunity here not only for Export Barbados but the entire government of Barbados to have a defined nondiscriminatory policy. Discrimination was the very backbone of life that was created in Barbados during slavery by an oppressive legislature. One should therefore expect that every act of government and its state own enterprises would contain a nondiscriminatory policy statement which should reference equal opportunity to all members of society. This nondiscriminatory policy which is normally used for employment. It states that persons must not be discriminated against due to their religion, class, sexual orientation, or disability.
There is no nondiscrimination clause in the new Charter of Barbados.
Perhaps, now that this issue has been brought to light, government and state-owned enterprises will operate under a nondiscriminatory policy which along with the aforementioned, include equal offerings in business opportunities.