Barbados’ Minister of Industry, International Business Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Innis, challenged his colleagues to engage their minds on financial services and their importance to regional economies and societies, now and in the future.
Innis, in an address to delegates attending the third Caribbean Conference on the International Financial Services Sector on Tuesday, was critical of the manner in which issues related to financial services are handled in the Caribbean.
“It is still unbelievable that regional leaders have their meetings and at most a paragraph or two is allocated to international business and financial services. We probably have several meetings about LIAT every year but a sector like this – that could easily finance the regional carrier, hardly gets a mention at the meeting of heads. They depend on the Caribbean Export Development Agency to bring us together occasionally. Most of us jump high at tourism and can readily recite all the erroneous statistics but when it comes to international business, there is but a murmur and that has to change.”
According to Innis, the onus is on the region’s leaders who need to agree on a structure to govern discussions and actions in respect of international business and financial services in the region.
“We must not continue to be forced together by outsiders but must see the tremendous benefits of sitting down and strategizing how this vital sector will survive n this very competitive and highly regulated global industry. Such a mechanism will allow us to have a strong voice in international forum.”
“For too long the Caribbean region has been sitting back, moaning and groaning as economic body blows were being inflicted upon us … I dare say that the occasional muscular language that comes in response, will no longer be the primary solution, we have to be there at the table where the rules of engagement are being drafted. This region has to do better in being on the front end of discussions around international business and financial services. We have to plan for such, we can no longer sit back and just respond. Let us be more proactive going forward.”
In challenging regional leaders, Innis called on the Caribbean Export Development Agency to coordinate the regional dialogue and response on international business and financial services matters.
“We must move beyond a task force and firmly establish a secretariat to serve the needs of the regions international financial centers. It must be a secretariat that is well resourced financially and human resource wise, let us not as the first response start to worry about where the money is going to come from. We can easily look around this region and see the money being wasted on all sorts of talk shops and think tanks that will satisfy the egos of a select few.”
He said that by June 30, all ministers responsible for international financial services will receive the first draft of a business plan for the establishment of a secretariat located within the Caribbean Export Development Agency to serve the need of the region’s IFC’s.
“We must endeavour to have this secretariat in place by the time we meet for next year’s conference,” he said.
By Kathy Barrett