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Dr. Ronnie Yearwood.

Call for Centres of Excellence to open up new spaces for jobs and development

A call has been made for Centres of Excellence to be established in Barbados, to provide the appropriate fiscal incentives to attract Bajan talent back to Barbados or for Bajan talent to stay in Barbados.

The suggestion was made by Dr. Ronnie Yearwood, guest speaker for the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) recent Errol Barrow Memorial Lecture, held at  DLP Headquarters.

Dr. Yearwood suggested that the Government needs to come up with creative solutions to the challenges it now faces, many of which have been brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. One avenue would be to seek to open up new spaces for jobs and development and the Centres of Excellence, he suggested, could do just that.

“Government can use its procurement and purchasing power to drive innovation in the local market, with a view to encourage export of products or services. Government can also provide the framework to support scientists and tech entrepreneurs. How can we do this? One way could be to create Centres of Excellence and provide the appropriate fiscal incentives to attract Bajan talent back to Barbados and for Bajan talent to stay in Barbados, and we can do this by rationalising existing governmental agencies,” Yearwood pointed out.

He added, “We can start with something very practical, such as re-organising the Facilitation Unit for Returning Nationals (FURN) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and some functions of other development agencies such as the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) and Invest Barbados can be rationalised as a new Barbados Centre for Innovation. This is what I mean when I say think [of] Government as Business and Social Enterprise. It is about finding ways to open new spaces for jobs and for development and opportunities for young people.”

He further noted, “A new role for the Centre would be to actively attract and facilitate young Barbadians living overseas and even international talent to move to Barbados to live, set up businesses and work. The Centre can continue to administer the current tax breaks, similar to what the Unit for Returning Nationals does, in addition to any new tax breaks for young returning Barbadians or international talent that wishes to partner, whether through financing, technology transfers or knowledge-sharing, with small businesses or entrepreneurs already present in Barbados. The Centre would not only be linked to Barbados’ embassies and consulates as is the Unit for Returning Nationals, but the Centre would ensure that the embassies and consulates are active hubs for facilitating the export of Barbadian products and services.”

There are spaces in which there should be less Government involvement as well, he noted that Government could then play a more dynamic role and could then place its focus on priority areas that need more of its attention. (RSM)

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