By Sharon Austin
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (BGIS) — Minister of State in the ministry of business development, Sandra Husbands, has underscored the importance of standards, saying they create certainty, which allows enterprises to build their brand.
Husbands expressed this view today as she participated in a Business Panel Discussion for students of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Needham’s Point, St Michael.
The theme of the discussion was: COVID-19 Pandemic and the Impact on Caribbean Economies.
The minister said the issue of quality was critical to trade, adding that there were certain standards that must be met when trading. “And this has acted as a barrier sometimes to small nations like ours, with small enterprises trying to meet standards to be able to get product into a market. And this has been claiming the attention of not only the Barbados government but the CARICOM governments as well.
“And recently, the business development division of the ministry…has put before us for consideration…a Barbados national quality policy, and this programme is linked to standards. Standards are critical because standards create certainty, and once you can sustain a consistency to create that certainty, you will build a brand. And once you can build your brand, you will be able to attract the type of market demand for your product and your service that will allow you to start to build scale,” Husbands proffered.
She told the students that the policy would be used to guide the enterprises as they made the transition.
The minister noted that the region had missed some opportunities because it had not looked at what were the “strategic best interests” in every arena.
“We have at CARICOM a list of ineligible – [ineligibles] are those products that are made in the region that meet quality standard, and the producers can provide for at least 75 percent of the demand. But what is happening…is that we are importing into the region over three billion US dollars’ worth of goods that we already produce, but we choose instead to buy them from outside.
“Now that is a travesty, and this is something that we are working on as a region at COTED. […] What we are trying to do is to see how can we transform the way in which our enterprises act and behave; how can we transform the platforms on which they have to operate to make sure that those platforms are conducive to them trading; and how can we make changes to our Common External Tariff and make changes to our rules of origin, to enable more regional demand for goods. This is what we are seeking to work on at the moment.”
Husbands said the pandemic had created the need for nearshoring, and Barbados was looking to see what businesses it could attract here and to the region. And also, emphasised the importance of engaging the diaspora in a meaningful way to help build out the Caribbean’s economy, including a demand for its products and services.
During the discussion, she noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had severely impacted Barbados, and the government had put a number of measures in place to help citizens.
“We sought to fast track a number of government capital projects to stimulate the economy, and so we would have spent $6.5M on the Speightstown Flood Mitigation Project, another $10 million on the Constitution River, and a whole set of projects we sought to spend some money on. […]
“And then we did repairs, for example, on government buildings, and that was about $20 million that we spent; another $10 (million) in our Industrial Development Complex. So, there were a number of initiatives that we sought to put on the ground in order to enable the businesses as well as the households to thrive,” Husbands pointed out.
Minister of tourism and international transport, Senator Lisa Cummins, and services specialist at the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Allyson Francis, also participated in the discussion.
The students participating in the Barbados Trek arrived on the island Thursday and they will leave on Monday. They will engage in a number of activities while here. The coordinator of the Barbados Trek is Kaila Squires, while the local liaison and co-coordinator of the panel discussion is Kirk Collymore.