Vice President, Special Projects with Bitt Inc., Stephen Phillips.
BUSINESS MONDAY – Region lagging behind
There is no infrastructure in place in the Caribbean that permits
businesses to go online in a simple, cost effective or accessible
This, says Vice President, Special Projects with Bitt Inc., Stephen
Phillips, became quite evident when the economic effects of covid-19
began to be felt here in Barbados and the wider region a few months
His comments came during the recent Sagicor Cave Hill School of
Business’ webinar, as he said that even though the pandemic and
ensuing lockdown helped to propel the need for digital payments and to
facilitate businesses online in a much greater way, it was not an easy
“In Barbados our experience was really traumatic – there were a lot of
businesses scrambling to figure out how to have customers pay online
and it was quite chaotic... And it really highlighted the fact that
the infrastructure, accessible infrastructure is really missing. There
isn’t any local or even regional infrastructure that would allow a
business to go online in a simple manner, in a cost effective manner,
in an accessible manner and on a whole, digital payments are not very
inclusive in the region,” he stated.
Phillips added, “So we are definitely lagging behind as a region in
terms of facilitating online business and commerce, and this has
effects for our ability to grow, our ability for our economies to
grow, our ability for business to innovate and to deliver new products
and services to add value to consumers’ lives.”
The Bitt Inc. executive went further, stating that these deficiencies
also have implications for the ease of doing business. He insisted
that this is something that countries in the Caribbean region cannot
afford to ignore.
“As we know, these ratings come out pretty often and the region
generally appears in the hundreds when compared to competitors. We are
a tourist industry predominantly in the region and we rely a lot on
foreign direct investment, and the ease of business definitely has a
role to play in attracting investors. If I have to go and stand in a
queue to open a business or to pay taxes, you know it becomes a less
than attractive environment,” he stated.
Phillips made the remarks while noting that globally, there has been a
definite shift to the use of digital payments. His comment came as he
said that in addition to the private sector, Central Banks are also
doing more work in the area of digital currencies, to help solve some
of the common problems and allow the average person to make digital
payments outside of the commercial bank setting.
“Financial inclusion is a big part of it, it becomes more of a common
good, having this infrastructure where the coconut vendor, your mom,
your aunt, anyone can make the digital payment – you don’t have to
leverage the financial services from a bank.
“This has potential implications for productivity of the economy when
you make payments remotely [and] you can receive benefits remotely –
you don’t have to get a cheque and go stand in a line – travel to go
stand in a line and then wait – then travel somewhere to pay someone.
It is just ridiculous and we need to solve these problems if we are
going to grow and be able to compete on a global scale,” he