There is no precise definition of the term ‘business facilitation’ but anyone in business understands its importance. While there may be varying views as to its present ‘state’, there is likely to be unanimity that improved business facilitation in the Public Sector in Barbados is required to foster growth and competitiveness in the economy and that it is required to improve the investor environment. It is also recognized that a core component to improving business facilitation is improving the ease of doing business in Barbados.
The Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) has for some time called for an improvement in the ease of doing business, such as starting a business, easier access to credit, registration of a company, acquisition and sale of a property, opening bank accounts and transacting business with Government, as a necessary precondition to resuscitate Barbados’ competitiveness and its image as a premier business destination. Improving the ease of doing business has significant potential to lower operating costs while improving the delivery of goods and services to customers.
While distinguished from business facilitation, trade facilitation is a key component to the ease of doing business. Trade facilitation is an important factor that impacts day-to-day business processes and Barbados’ overall economic output given the country’s level of openness and dependence on imports and exports to drive the economy. According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), trade facilitation refers to the simplification, modernization, and harmonisation of export/import processes. Barbados (and other CARICOM Member States) is a signatory to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement which entered into force in February 2017 and requires Customs and other border agencies to undertake reforms aimed at improving how cargo is managed at ports of entry. These commitments cover a range of areas that if implemented, could result in an improvement in supply chain management in Barbados. Any effort to improve business facilitation must, therefore, encompass trade facilitation.
The BPSA welcomes the priority placed by the Ministry of Finance and other Government departments in the reform processes underway at the Customs and Excise Division and the Barbados Port. There is also a noticeable improvement in the cooperation between the border agencies, which should be sustained. Plans to construct new facilities at the Barbados Port are welcomed. In addition, the transition to the ASYCUDA World Platform is expected to realize benefits in trade facilitation. These technological improvements undertaken by the Customs and Excise Division and at the Barbados Port to provide stakeholders, including brokers and agents, with real-time information about their respective consignments entering or leaving the port are important steps to improve customs service as well as the timeliness in the delivery of cargo.
The BPSA also welcomes the fact that representatives of the Barbados Private Sector are able to participate in the National Task Force on Trade Facilitation established to coordinate the implementation of the country’s trade facilitation obligations. At the regional level, the private sector also sits on the Regional Task Force Committee which is responsible for the implementation of the CARICOM Strategy to support states with the implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. The Caribbean Customs Brokers Association is a member of the committee and it is anticipated that the recently established Network of Caribbean Chambers of Commerce will be approved to serve on the Committee. Private sector participation in these structures guarantees their input into the customs administration processes and should be maintained as an essential element of the reform process.
Government has stated as one of its main objectives, transforming how business is done in Barbados through the increased use of new technology across all sectors of Government. The integration of ICT into how government works will be an important factor if Barbados is to significantly improve the way it conducts business and facilitates the private sector. Thus, the effort of the Government of Barbados to ‘digitize’ operations within the public sector is regarded as another positive development for business facilitation on the island. The work being undertaken to remove the duplication in the submission of documents, streamline the various processes and provide for online service interaction in an effort to improve efficiency is welcomed. These are all signs that Government is committed to improving Barbados’ ranking on the global ease of doing business index. These developments are supported by the private sector and we will continue to work with Government to realize Barbados’ true potential.
With renewed and more vibrant consultations within the local tripartite body, the Social Partnership of Barbados, along with the implementation of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan, the transition to improved business facilitation is now more of a reality for improving the attractiveness of Barbados’ business landscape. We are optimistic that in next year’s report we will be able to state that we have made significant progress in achieving this goal.
One of the attractive features of the business landscape of any country for an investor is its enabling climate. Barbados offers a well-regulated, transparent and supportive environment for business which will be further improved by the ongoing efforts to improve business facilitation. We believe these improvements are also contributing to the rising confidence within the market and that Barbados is becoming an even more attractive jurisdiction for both local and international investors.