The Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) could not presume to tell the Minister of Finance what should be THE focus of his upcoming Budget presentation. After all, there are several different interests equally looking for the Budget to meet their needs. The reality is that the Minister of Finance has to be conscious of these competing interests and balance those against the needs of the country on a whole at the same time. As such, BIBA is offering some suggestions as to what we think the Budget should include as Government seeks to find palatable solutions to the country’s current precarious economic situation.

At its heart, the Budget reflects Government’s proposed social and economic programmes and strategies for the ensuing year. When the Minister of Finance sets out his budgetary proposals at the cost of x-amount, the challenge then lies in where he will find the funding for these proposals. Government can always seek to raise revenue through increasing taxes, but in the long-run this has its negative fallout for the economy. What would be preferred, especially at this time, are creative initiatives to generate more business activity. An oft ignored or forgotten fact is that government’s revenue comes directly and indirectly from the activities of the private sector. Therefore, it would be in government’s best interest to deliver a Budget containing measures to generate more business activity, which in turn can lead to more job creation, more tax revenues and other economic benefits.

In this respect, we need a strategy that will boost more private sector activity in Barbados, especially inward investment that can bring in the much needed foreign exchange that will keep the mechanics of our economy running. While domestic concerns are compelling in the political agenda, the reality is that there can be no sustainable solution to our domestic economic and social problems without an expansion in our business base and, given the small size of our economy, that is only achievable through growth in our international business activity. Government must therefore put greater emphasis on converting international interest in Barbados into investment and business activity. Key to all of this would be sincere and purposeful attention to the critical element of business facilitation, and the allied challenge of public service transformation.

In 2007, the Ministry of Economic Affairs presented to the international business sector a Charter that committed several government agencies to dramatically slashing the time in which it would take for businesses to become established here. This Charter had far-reaching implications for business facilitation across the corporate landscape of Barbados and could have transformed us to a level of efficiency in service delivery that would have made us the envy of our regional peers. Sadly, four years later we are still waiting for these benchmarks to be met. It is now time for Government to once again show the level of initiative that got it to the point of that Charter and present the type of budgetary measures that will make Barbados competitive across the board.

When BIBA met with the Minister of Finance in anticipation of his 2011 Budget presentation, we outlined a number of recommendations that could best be summed up as a call for a him to play a transformative role in motivating the agencies of our public sector critical to business facilitation into becoming the sort of proactive, responsive, partners that could take the necessary steps to achieving what is critical for the advancement of this entire economy. For too long these issues have remained unresolved, and Barbados is now at the juncture where the decision to act on them could make the difference in the standard of living our people enjoy from this moment forward. Indeed, it is true to say that if we do not act to resolve these issues with haste it will be nigh impossible to guarantee Barbadians the standard of living they now enjoy.