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.

The Failed Entrepreneurial State

Sir Dwight Venner - Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank

Sir Dwight Venner – Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank

BU listened with interest to the Governor of the ECCB Sir Dwight Venner as he delivered the annual Leo Leacock Memorial Lecture during Small Business Week 2014 (SBA) which ran from September 21 to September 27. Of interest also:  the week  culminated with  an Awards Ceremony and Dinner at the Hilton with our friendly neighbourhood academic Avinash D. Persad invited to deliver the featured address titled The Entrepreneurial State. Coincidentally, Persad delivered the annual Leo Leacock lecture in 2009. A pet peeve of BU is why the race by the SBA to invite so many academics to address an audience presumably of budding and established entrepreneurs. Persad’s speech was littered with the usual amorphous references to Steve Jobs, Carlos Slim, Larry Ellison with no reference to past or rising entrepreneurs from Barbados or the region who have blazed a trail. This is the problem BU has with academics who often (through no fault of their own) become detached from the reality. And no BU is not anti academic.

For those who listened and observed his body language Sir Dwight Venner expressed a hopelessness with the Barbados development engine for absconding its leadership role in the region. Bear in mind this is a man who walks in the shadows of regional political and business leaders. We all agree SMEs have to be part of the solution but we continue to struggle jumpstarting the sector. Like a stuck record we have to listen to SBA CEO Lynette Holder’s query whether we have a category called entrepreneur in Barbados or whether our policymakers even acknowledge an invigorated SME sector as being critical to the lifeblood of the Barbados economy.   Like the minibus culture which has been allowed to take root by successive administrations so too they have demonstrated a basement level of ignorance about how to foster an environment that will release the potential of the Barbadian entrepreneur.

Is it not logical to conclude that our pre-colonial education model is failing us and we need to change it? Are our leaders unable to appreciate if we continue to use the same model we will not get a different result? We are happy to produce a nation of employees by suppressing those who would aspire to create capital by unleashing talents driven by a yearning to self actualize swimming in an ethos of entrepreneurial activity? Are we a highly literate nation or not?

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Entrepreneurship! How Serious Are We as a Nation?

Wayne Cadogan

Wayne Cadogan

In September of 2012 as I was preparing to go on preretirement leave and as the word got around, I was approached by a number of concerned citizens, government officials and businessmen regarding what I was going to do with my knowledge and experience. I was told that I should not take all of my knowledge and experience to the grave. I was advised that I should re-open a learning facility to undertake training in the garment and business field. I thought long and hard over the issue and came to the conclusion that God would not be happy with me if I did not honour that request to my fellow countrymen and women.

In November of 2012, I was advised to submit an application to BIDC Small Business Centre for space to conduct the training, as there was space available there for such small businesses. I submitted the application and was told then that there is a committee that meets monthly whom I would have to meet with, before an approval could be made. Well a year has passed and I am yet to hear from BIDC in any form or fashion regarding my application. Meanwhile, I am constantly being bombarded by members of the public when I am going to start training.

Unfortunately for the public and the country, due to a lax or inefficient public system; where work is not of a high priority for some workers and where some workers are paid only to be present at work and not producing, causing productivity to be actually non-existent within some government departments in the public service and which needs to be addressed if the country is to go forward.

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Entrepreneurship Key to ‘Rebirthing’ This Fair Land

An entrepreneur searches for change, responds to it and exploits opportunities

Richard Branson believes an entrepreneur searches for change, responds to it and exploits opportunities

“In plenty and in time of need. When this fair land was young, Our brave forefathers sowed the seed. From which our pride was sprung…”

From time to time in Barbados the debate centres on how Barbadians can enable the landscape for entrepreneurship to flourish. A casual observation confirms that a large and growing Barbados middleclass is of the collin-tie variety. Entrepreneurs who are wired to deliver goods and  service of a world class standard continue to struggle and earn respect in Barbados; in stark contrast to Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana. In fact we may have a problem defining who is an entrepreneur versus a businessman.

BU suspects for an entrepreneurship culture to take root in Barbados  an old mindset has to be dismantled and be transformed, to become a Barbados where the school, heights and terrace, media etc are respectful of this segment. BU has a view that the socialist model which has served Barbados well in a post Independence period has lost its relevance. A consequence is that a mendicant culture is flourishing. Social benefits have morphed to be entitlements in the perception of many. The end result is that we have reached a point where public expenditure has outpaced our ability to generate matching revenue. Ignore the politicians who disagree!

What will it require to energize a comfortable ‘collin-tie’ class that a different approach is needed if we are to protect the standard living we have become addicted?

Here is one of the world’s best known entrepreneurs extolling on – what is an entrepreneur:

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP – Latest Buzz Word For Government

Sandra Husbands, Barbados Labour Party Candidate for St. James South

The revival of the demand for a relatively unknown entertainment licence has frustrated the efforts of many promoters to host Crop Over fetes resulting in losses for this sector. It is a reflection of the regard with which small businesses are held by government. This economic crisis has taken a toll on the small business sector that now reels from diminished spending power of its customers, and rising costs to do business, compliments of the international environment and government taxation policy. Hundreds of small shops, professional services, contractors, fisherfolk, retail shops, cosmetologists, IT service providers, general services providers are now operating on a third of the income they commanded in better years or in some cases closing. Loss of private sector jobs have come primarily in this sector as small business employers have been forced to cut hours, lay off, reduce purchases of goods and services. Many are unable to meet payments and statutory obligations such as rent, wages, loans, utilities, suppliers, increased licensing fees, NIS, PAYE, and VAT. The international environment and questionable government policy squeeze from both sides robbing these businesses of necessary oxygen to survive. Their demise affects significant investment capital, and the employment opportunities for the young graduates and school leavers, now some 12,000 strong. The growing number of empty commercial spaces is testimony to closures in this sector.

Taking government at its word that it is committed to the small business sector, in 2008, the request to government was as a strategy to aid the small business sector to survive the unfolding crisis was to ensure that 40% of government contracts worth 200m be distributed to this sector which would support close to 1000 small businesses. This would have protected more than 4000 jobs thus stabilising the unemployment figures without gov’t swelling the civil service. This money would flow through the economic system benefitting a wider network of persons into the retail and services sectors, banking system, large businesses etc, thus sustaining government revenues through VAT receipts, duties, income tax and corporation tax. Instead we witnessed a contraction in the use of small businesses in the tenders for government contracts, which have become concentrated into fewer hands.

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Suggestions On How We Build A Better Barbados In These Troubled Times: A Bajan Yankee Perspective

Submitted by Bajan Yankee

1. Accountability: Bajans have to start using the power of the vote to elect leaders at all political levels who by virtue of their experience, education and talent can bring about significant reforms to restructure the economy of our nation. The current short sighted emphasis of electing “talking heads” who can’t execute meaningful reforms is killing us slowly. The Westminster form of governance in it’s native form is not working for Caribbean nations as a whole with major reform needed to encourage problem solving vs ridiculous academic and often endless debates the product nothing.

2. Leveraging our strengths: With one of the highest literacy rates in the world the people of Barbados need to be viewed as an underutilized commodity. Government must and can market our masses of educated people to demonstrate why Barbados is the best place for that next call centre or manufacturing facility, which is not occurring today at any meaningful level. They are great Bajan products that can be taken to a global stage, the import export business has been dominated by a few companies who are not doing the nation as a whole much, there is a role for government to play in assisting Bajan products in getting to the world market.

3. Education: Education should inspire innovation, which is the practical use of knowledge. We have an extremely rigid view of education which hinders true innovation.  Because a person has a wall full of degrees does not in itself mean they can transform that knowledge effectively in the real world.

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