Business ‘unusual’

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One of Government’s special economic advisors is promising a comprehensive change to the doing business environment in Barbados in coming months as the Mia Mottley administration seeks to develop entrepreneurship and encourage more investments in the country.

Economist Professor Avinash Persaud suggested that the doing business climate in Barbados was skewed in the favour of some while excluding others.

This, he said, coupled with a lack of new financing models, was contributing to a lack of entrepreneurial opportunities for more Barbadians.

“Any of you ever had the horror of registering a new business? We are going to be changing that in a few weeks to a few months’ time,” he said to sustained applause at a recent forum at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.

“Doing business is far too hard in Barbados. And you know what, people think about this as inefficiency but it is actually not about inefficiency; it is about equity. If doing business is really hard, if it takes months before your application gets through, if you need to know the right people to get it faster, who can do it but the well-off? So making doing business difficult is all about preserving the privilege of the privileged,” he said.

“If we really want to have an entrepreneurial, equitable, opportunistic society we have to make it easier for people to do business. And that is what we are doing. It is about democratization of the economy,” added Persaud.

However, he said even that would not be enough, adding that Government would also be creating more opportunities for people to own businesses and share in the ownership of businesses.

In that regard, Persaud said Government would soon be introducing new regulatory regime on peer-to-peer-lending, adding that the country was also in need of crowd funding, and equity and bond investments.

“We in Barbados have a problem of missing markets. We don’t have a shortage of savings. It takes us to go abroad to realize how much we have. Our problem is not about how we create savings. Our problem is about how we mobilise the existing savings we have for domestic investment,” he said.

“It is not about government picking winners or predicting what is going to be important in 50 years’ time. We have no idea. All we know is that what is going to be important in 50 years is people and we need to invest in people, in skills, opportunities and your ability to own [businesses],” he said.

Persaud, who is the new Chairman of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), also disclosed that that office had made it easier for companies seeking to renew applications.

The FSC is the regulator of insurance, securities, pensions and credit unions.

Persaud explained that since taking up his position as chairman of the board of directors at the regulatory agency he has received a number of complaints about the length of time it took for applications to be processed.

“It made us think deeply about how we can change that, and Kester Guy [Chief Executive Officer FSC] found out that we were spending about 12 weeks on an application and 16 weeks on renewal of that application. And we got thinking what is the point of a renewal? You know what the point was, to justify the fee,” he said.

Persaud said a system has since been put in place that required people to inform the FSC before they wanted to do a renew. “If they don’t, we can fine them heavily,” he added.

“And as long as we do that, they don’t need to fill out another application. So we have done away with that renewals process completely,” he said.

According to the Doing Business Report 2019, Barbados fell three spots to 132nd out of 190 economies.

The country was ranked 129th in 2018 and 132nd in 2017.
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