The phrase ‘ease of doing business’ is a familiar one in our island and across the Caribbean. As we emerge from the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, the awareness of how life has changed in many respects during that period is not lost on us. Indeed, business, public and private, and individuals were forced to make changes and either introduce or accelerate new methodologies for the ease of doing   business consequent to the pandemic. A perfect example is that of online banking   in the commercial banking sector. There were many persons who resisted the call   from the banking industry to make good use of the technology and move from the ‘bricks and mortar’, ‘stand up in line’ modality to conducting banking business by the click of a mouse. Now there has been an immediate cultural shift, having been pushed to online banking by the raging COVID 19 pandemic, as indicated in the 2021 Financial Stability Report. And there is certainly much more to be achieved in that industry with the use of technology, such as the soon to be launched real time processing of transactions in the banks and credit unions.

Another example is the process in Barbados for getting exchange control permission by businesses and individuals applying to purchase foreign currency for certain transactions. Forms had to be submitted, time spent waiting for the review process, then forms had to be collected from the Central Bank of Barbados before the actual purchase of the foreign exchange could be done. The Central Bank of Barbados has now   introduced an automated procedure of application. Days of waiting have been transformed into a few hours, from submission of the application to acknowledgement of receipt, to review, to response of permission granted or not granted, albeit there may be a few exceptions in the process. Of course, mention too must be made that with the use of technology, uploads to forex online can be done at any time that is convenient as users are fully liberated from the fixed business hours of physical operations. What a difference this has made to the business landscape in Barbados.

The changes at the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property office (CAIPO), including the introduction of the digital   platform for Corporate Affairs services, must be lauded. This has provided an online platform for accessing the bouquet of services for investment promotion and ease of conducting trade.

The continued improvements at the Barbados Immigration department are   also worthy of mention. As an example, our feedback is that many on the Barbados 12-Month Welcome Stamp programme, a positive outcome from the COVID-19 for the island, have seamlessly transitioned to other visa status. Other processes have been digitized, such as obtaining police certificates of character with one day turnaround time for the most part.

These are just few examples extracted   from what pertained in the past juxtaposed to our present reality. In other words, what we used to do and what we can achieve within the context of business process improvements. However, the complexity of getting there, and then at the preferred speed is also generally understood.

It is well recognized that the need for foreign direct investment to further stimulate growth and development of the economy makes it an undisputed fact that business facilitation is of critical importance if we are to thrive and globally compete as an attractive business destination.

As a nation, Barbados, inclusive of Government, public and private sectors, and other key stakeholders, has been robustly addressing the matter of business facilitation.

Although the World Bank discontinued publication of its ‘Doing Business Report’ in September 2021, the recommendations made to Barbados continue to be a good   compass to improved business facilitation in our onward journey to the next level.

The private sector has to do its part to get there. Where necessary, lobbying   and advocacy, one of the main roles of the Barbados Private Sector Association, which I have the opportunity to lead, will be to negotiate value-added incentives to facilitate growth and a reinvigoration of an investor enabling climate.

The role of public agencies will also be key to the success of the ongoing reform practices. With continued collaboration, and with persons committed to the reform process, we can expect a more transparent and effective system of interaction between government agencies and statutory corporations for better facilitation.

At present, therefore, we may not be where we want to be, but we must push forward, and push forward we will.

Barbados’ profile has been significantly raised on the international   stage as an attractive business destination. We believe this augers well for trade and improved investor confidence that will redound to market growth, both for local business and potential off- shore investors who are very welcome to our shores.