â€œBarbados has always been in the global arena going back to the days of slavery, perhaps better known in the rum industry days of 300 years ago,â€ Inniss explained.
â€œBarbadians were very instrumental in helping the U.S. (United States) â€¦ providing the first set of governors to the Carolinas, who came from Barbados. Our model for government was also used by the U.S. in the early days. â€œAs well, there were countries in Africa that at the turn of the last century would have most of their governors in key public offices originate from Barbados and the Caribbean.â€
Based on this foundation, today Barbados has a clearly defined international business sector, said Inniss. The island also boasts a judicial system that works, a transparent political system and leaders that are willing to engage with the rest of the world on international trade matters.
Barbados is recognized as a treaty-based jurisdiction, having signed about 36 treaties with other countries. For example, the island has a double taxation treaty with Canada. Through that treaty, and the accompanying policies, Barbados is the third largest recipient of foreign investment out of Canada, according to Inniss.
â€œLast year we managed about 77 billion Canadian dollars of Canadian-owned assets,â€ he explained. â€œThatâ€™s the value of Canadian-owned enterprise business services that are controlled by Barbados-based companies. That is global, not money in Barbados. We are second to the U.S. and the U.K. (United Kingdom) as the place that Canadian companies use globally.
â€œLikewise, we are busy attracting businesses out of Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela because investors going into those countries like to come to a safe haven like Barbados.â€ Another incentive for foreign investment is the 2.5 percent maximum tax rate on licensed entities in the international business sector. Inniss correlates the attractive tax rate with the 5,000 licensed foreign companies employing a considerable number of people and contributing almost a billion Barbados dollars to the economy annually, second only to tourism.
Part of Innissâ€™s portfolio is also enabling the right environment for the micro, small and medium enterprise sector. â€œWe recognize that it is a sector that plays a meaningful role in economic development in any economy anywhere in the world,â€ he said. â€œâ€¦ We also recognize that this is the sector that is most likely to drive creativity and innovation here in Barbados.â€
Inniss said the government recently rolled out a Bds$50 million round of finance targeted at the micro, small and medium enterprise sector. He said one of the major challenges of the sector is access to affordable financing as commercial banks generally view this sector as a high risk. â€œMy ministry is on the cusp of revolutionizing the micro, small and medium enterprise sector by clearly identifying who they are, rolling out a new suite of policies and incentives and ensuring that the sector gets the level of respect that it rightly deserves,â€ Inniss explained.
Demonstrating that respect, the ministry took a number of micro and small businesses on promotional trade missions across the region, including stops in St. Lucia, Grenada, Guyana, Cuba and Panama. Inniss said focusing on the Caribbean and the Barbadian diaspora overseas is significant, especially in light of the countryâ€™s 50th anniversary of Independence.
â€œWeâ€™ve actually seen a major transformation in the economy and society in the 50-year period,â€ he said. â€œâ€¦ We have actually grown from a small village to a major and complex state. â€œIâ€™ve watched this island slip out of the clutches and control of a colonial master called Great Britain to one where we really stand on our own â€¦ When my colleague ministers or prime minister speak at the United Nations or any international agency or organization, there is a sense of pride. â€œAnd people listen because Barbados, like so many other Caribbean islands, have really pulled ourselves up and is now a voice to be reckoned with where it matters most.â€