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Whose Responsibility is it? #29 - Barbados 2018

Barbados has a historical reputation (similar to Jamaica) of punching above its fighting weight. Who can forget the famous telegram supporting Britain in the Second World War: “Go ahead, Barbados is behind you”, this as Britain declared war on Germany and Hitler’s 3rd Reich. It was more than a statement; it was an AUDACIOUS statement from “Bimshire”

Barbados continued with its leadership in CARICOM, and prior to that in the Federation where Sir Grantley Adams was the first leader of that West Indian alliance. However jealousy quickly showed its ugly head and Jamaica left the Federation, and Dr. Eric Williams made his famous statement “1 from 10 leaves 0”. Some amounts of hard feelings have survived the decades making CARICOM a rather difficult organization to manage.

The unprecedented total victory of Prime Minister Mia Mottley has brought some degree of relief and challenges, but also the firm reality that the previous actions are no longer relevant and resistance to change is now impossible. Already the IMF has visited and promised support (read guidance and discipline), however the conditions will, no doubt, be similar to that of Jamaica.

However I do not see Barbados getting away with the lethargy of Jamaica with regard to re-structuring of the Civil Service. This brings the Trade Unions into play, and by personal observation only, Barbadians do not seem to have as much of the survival instincts or street-savvy that we possess in Jamaica. The size of Barbados does not lend itself to grey or illegal economic activity. In fact they may often be held up as an orderly, literate, and fairly legal society.

We by comparison have been accustomed to live outside of the law and for some time our questionable activities have rivalled the official economy. Barbados is spatially small enough so that secrets are hard to hide, and they do not have an “informer fi dead” mentality. Now that they have an Opposition they will be in a better position to meet the terms of the IMF in moving forward.

My major concern is about domestic debt held by corporations domiciled in Barbados which have Barbadian dollar debt. Their risk of decreased earnings due to “haircuts” such as we has in Jamaica, has future impact on their Balance Sheets, in different degrees, but perhaps more so in the financial services sector of their listed companies.

The Barbados Stock Exchange lists: Ansa McAl; Banks Holdings; Barbados National Bank; Barbados Shipping and Trading; Bico Ltd; Cave Shepherd and Company; FirstCaribbean International; Fortress Caribbean Property Fund; Goddard Enterprises Ltd.; Insurance Corporation of Barbados; Sagicor Financial Ltd.; West Indies Rum Distillery; among the larger ones.

The degree to which these companies are invested in local instruments will determine the impact on their future performance forecasts. Some may have to seek external loans or equity investments that may change the structure of their ownership. For the proud Barbadians, this may take them close to the edge of survival, but for the skilled negotiators there may be several win-win situations.

Like Jamaica, Barbados will not die and vanish. They are at the brink however, and it is only through skillful adaptation that they will prosper again. We in Jamaica should be investigating cooperation with Barbadian firms, and we are perceived as better suitors than the notorious T&T aggressive winner take all mentality.

We should our Government to use diplomacy to get closer to Barbados starting with CARICOM, and followed by the Private Sector who may see value in future partnerships. We have a lot of valuable experience to help Barbadians lose the “take your meat out me rice” mentality, and now is the time to reevaluate our relationship in business ventures with Barbados.

James Moss- Solomon
Executive in Residence
Mona School of Business and Management

June 8, 2018

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