Greater support needed
It is not that Barbadians lack the ingenuity needed to come up with new business ideas and products, but there is no enabling environment to allow them to flourish.
That’s the view of Entrepreneur and Independent Senator, John Watson. He is suggesting that the opportunity for people to do a lot of things is stifled a little bit in Barbados and as a result, he lamented, many have resorted to buying and selling.
“So that if a person gets some money, they run off to Miami, get some dresses, they bring them back and sell them rather than getting into the productive sectors. If you look at the manufacturing sector for instance, it has not been stimulated and encouraged enough and that is unfortunate as that is where you get the innovation,” he said.
He added, “We have a solar heating sector, we had a thriving handicraft industry that was beginning to boom, we had potters, weavers, woodwork people, but Pelican Village is dying or is dead,” Senator Watson stated during an interview with The Barbados Advocate.
His comments came as he expressed concern that local businesses are not supporting the local manufacturing industry as they should. In fact, Senator Watson, a pioneer in the small business and manufacturing sectors in Barbados, explained that such support is needed, as manufacturers depend on the retail trade to survive and thrive.
“One of the problems is we have allowed all sorts of imports to come into Barbados. Our large furniture dealers do not buy local furniture and we do not have many large department stores anymore where you can buy local craft. A good market for garments is the uniform industry, but we are now importing school uniforms and school accessories from China. Companies who have uniforms for their staff import their uniforms, very few are made here. So there is scope for expanding the manufacturing sector and that is where the innovation is,” he said.
The Senator is adamant that concerted efforts have to be made to boost the manufacturing industry in this country, which he said would provide a source of employment for a number of people. However, he acknowledged that in order to see manufacturing go to the next level, retailers have to be encouraged to give them their support. Once they can get a stronger footing in the local market, he said they can set their sights on export.
Turning his attention to agriculture, Watson said he was pleased to see that some young people are showing an interest in that sector and choosing it as a career option. He said some of them in addition to farming are also getting into processing, but he lamented that too lacked the support it needed.
“I believe that agriculture and agro-processing are markets that can develop, but I am not hearing of any significant interest in doing something for that sector. We really must go back to manufacturing and agriculture, which are things a lot of the decision makers believe are obsolete. But if we go back there, I guarantee that we would see a change in the development for Barbados,” he said.
Senator Watson continued, “I believe very firmly if we eat what we grow, and grow what we eat; if we make what we wear and wear what we make; if our homes could be furnished with local furniture and we have people who make curtains, who make cushions, who make all sort of things, we would save foreign exchange and help to stimulate the economy.”
He is of the firm belief that if there is the will to make sure that the country produces what it needs; Barbados can see a turnaround in its fortunes. (JRT)