EDITORIAL: Manufacturing still crucial to the economy

THIS year’s BMEX, based on what has been said and seen since Friday, still remains a pivotal marketing tool and incentive in this country’s efforts to push manufacturing.

The interest by some of our domestic producers who continue year after year to mount stalls and display their products and services at the exhibition is very comforting. At least they cherish the hope that manufacturing still has a place in Barbados, in spite of the criticisms and the other negative things said about the sector.

What is also very pleasing is that the number of young exhibitors is on the increase, putting their skills into action to produce things that Barbadians can market and earn hard currency, and be proud of.

When one looks at it, Tourism and International Business alone cannot earn all the foreign exchange which Barbados requires. Foreign exchange is required to meet Barbados’ external debt repayments, pay for the goods and services which the country imports, and most importantly, protect the current exchange rate peg which Barbados has followed since the 1970s.

This is where Manufacturing and goods exports come in. However, the sector has lost much ground over the years, which was due to neglect by the authorities.

Important in this are two policy statements revealed in separate events over the weekend. They serve to demonstrate that the Government sees Manufacturing as having a worthy place in the economy, and contrary to the adverse comments that surface from time to time about the Manufacturing sector.

On Friday night Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Ms. Sandra Husbands, said that the Government intends to push exports to help grow the economy and bring Barbados out of its present economic predicament. Those plans include going after markets like Guyana and Suriname within CARICOM and Panama.

The Guyana market is poised for growth, with Ms. Husbands suggesting that GDP there could reach about $28 billion, in light of the economic expansion taking place. In recent times, Guyana has emerged as a major absorber of imports from Barbados, which according to the latest figures were valued at just under $50 million.

Then during a tour of BMEX on Saturday, Minister of International Business and Industry, Ronald Toppin, promised a National Industrial Policy, through which Government will be channelling support to the industry whose output and employment have fallen off over the course of the last 20 years.

From a situation where cheap and subsidised imports were allowed into Barbados to compete with domestic goods, the high cost of production and in many cases a lack of financing, Manufacturing in Barbados had been thrown to the wolves. Those who remain faithful to the industry continue to put out quality goods and services, which have been the hallmark of BMEX year after year.

Ms. Husbands said that in giving a thrust to exports, this is being done to support the overall economy. It is hoped that these measures will be undertaken and that the lift which the sector requires will redound to its benefit. Barbados deserves it.

Once this materialises, Barbados would be in a better shape to have a more rounded economy that will be firing on all cylinders.

Barbados Advocate

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