Whether it is a result of the Sir Arthur Lewis’ strategy of “Industrialisation by Invitation” which would have facilitated the expansion of manufacturing within Barbados by large multinational companies such as Berger Paints (in 1964), Tansitor Electronics (1969); or the efforts by agencies like the BIDC who promoted Barbados as a place of transparency and strong work ethics and attracted companies like Lenstec; there have been many initiatives and campaigns over the past few decades which have sought to promote Barbados as “an ideal location for doing business.”
The need to enhance the national foreign investments portfolio is clear; yet some fear that Barbados’ reputation as a high cost location for international investors and manufacturers is a major deterrent. While it may be true that the cost of living and operating in Barbados may exceed that of other places across the region; there are still companies which believe that there are excellent opportunities for the right products to be developed and manufactured in Barbados.
But what is it that attracts investors to our shores? Let’s start with our people. When companies review our human resources capacity, the comments that generally resound are that our talent pool is highly skilled and our literacy rate well above standard. More and more Barbadians have been expanding their academic and technical skills. No longer is the focus restricted to traditional career paths. Many are expanding their knowledge and skills in a range of vocational training areas and with the certification and recognition administered by the TVET Council; the correct attention is being paid to these areas.
What is also attractive to investors is the fact that our workforce tends to be stable and non-aggressive, with little to no work stoppages or disruption. Our people tend to be flexible and dynamic offering a range of generalist skills which are invaluable to any organisation. Not that there is not a high degree of specialist skills available on the island but generalist skills appear to be more sought after.
Barbados also provides the type of environment that is conducive for conducting business. Investors generally describe Barbados as a safe environment; and while there is no denying that there has been somewhat of an increase in the crime rate, locals and visitors alike still have a large measure of safety and security when they are in Barbados which surpasses that of many other countries.
While the world recovers from the economic shockwave that we have experienced over the past few years, Barbados’ economy has remained relatively stable and the business arena has performed with a reasonable measure of strength. Amidst rumours of devaluation, our dollar remains strong and we are generally not prone to devaluations. Investors are usually able to recoup a sound return on their investments and we are known for our very high quality and standard of living. Some often joke than when expatriates come to our shores and stay a while they usually do not want to return to their home countries.
Our location is also another asset. Barbados in reality is a prime port of entry to the rest of the Caribbean and an easy location to connect with the rest of the world. Whether it is air travel or export by sea we are ideally located to do business with the rest of the world.
We are not prone to earth quakes which can have devastating impacts on business; and while not hurricane-exempt we have been spared the type of damage several islands in the region have sustained. Our Health Care and Education systems are sound and there the country ably facilitates foreign investment. So all in all Barbados is rife with investment opportunities and provides the infrastructure and human resources to deliver on any investment.
There have also been greater efforts to move Barbados closer to being a green economy and a green society. This has been an evolving process but we are inching ever closer to this reality. And finally, our Government is stable, and recognizing the win-win value of external investment, our Government continues to be innovative in its development of incentives for investment programmes
One must ask, what are we as Barbadians looking for? It must be a win-win situation. Quite naturally as the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association we are looking for Investors who are passionate about manufacturing, for companies that deliver world-class products and even better if they have niche products. They need to be financially strong, and be reputable companies seeking opportunities to grow and develop and to make a meaningful contribution to Barbados and its citizens. We need companies which are willing to invest in sound human resources and those which are seeking mutually beneficial opportunities and not just looking to take from us.
Barbados is highly attractive to any investment entity and we stand ready to deliver good returns for any fit-for-purpose investors.