Bahamian manufacturers service consumer needs in face of pandemic

Cartwright’s Bedding employee makes masks

PHOTO: Cartwright’s Bedding employee makes masks

As much of the world grappled with the uncertainties that lay ahead following the announcement of the first COVD-19 case in The Bahamas, Bahamian manufacturers assessed raw material inventories to ensure supply of their goods would remain uninterrupted.

Many members were immediately deemed essential services, such as water producers, and others quickly received exemptions from the Government, including bread and chemical producers.

While concerns were discussed on potential supply chain constraints on imported finished goods, Bahamian manufacturers like Purity Bakery, Aquapure, Blanco Chemicals, Chelsea’s Choice, Lucayan Tropical, Digi Print and Caribbean Bottling remained operational to ensure consumers’ needs were met, while keeping hundreds of Bahamians employed.

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May 8th, 2019 - BLIDC response to Oxford Economics WTO Impact Assessment Report

The Board of the BLIDC has reviewed the Oxford Economics WTO Impact Assessment Report and wish to commend the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer’s Confederation for commissioning the study, which the BLIDC supported.

Recognizing the Government’s goal of acceding to the World Trade Organization in 2020, the report is timely and provides key insight into the potential implications of joining the global trade body. The BLIDC, as representatives of the manufacturing and light industries sector in The Bahamas, is not yet fully committed to the necessity of joining the WTO, but appreciates the Government’s goal of positioning the Bahamian economy for future growth.

What is perhaps most relevant to Bahamian businesses today is the finding that substantial reform is required, both legislatively and institutionally.  Businesses have long voiced concerns over the ease of doing business, and the lack thereof. These hurdles have stifled economic growth in existing sectors and served as deterrents for new market entrants. Oxford Economics has rightly drawn the conclusion that WTO accession alone will not serve as the catalyst to right our ship.

Although the authors of the report disagree with the BLIDC’s request of bond rates higher than current applied rates, we welcome their assessment that protective tariffs can likely be maintained on goods currently produced. This strategy does potentially limit the future expansion of manufacturing in The Bahamas, as any protection that would normally be provided to facilitate local industry would no longer be in place. It does however protect the 4,000+ jobs in the sector today. In fact, the Oxford Economics report includes data from the Department of Statistics whose records reflect that in excess of 8,000 individuals are employed in manufacturing. It is worth noting that when referencing the conservative figure of 4,000 workers, this figure is a mere 450 shy of the employee count of the financial services sector.

Of particular interest to the Board, was the finding that it would be unlikely that jobs lost from the potential downsizing of manufacturing would easily be absorbed elsewhere in the economy. It has often been suggested that these individuals would be absorbed by the anticipated growth in other sectors, yet the report concludes that this likely would not be the case.

The BLIDC must also applaud the Government for making the Goods and Services Offers public, and is currently awaiting dialogue as it relates to the most recent Working Group meeting held last month.


BLIDC response to Government WTO consultations.

Over the past several weeks the Ministry of Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration have held a number of WTO Private Sector Consultations with a cross section of industries and groups in the Bahamas pertaining to accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). We commend the Government, through this Ministry, for hosting these consultations, however there remain substantial concerns for all industries. In particular, with respect to the degree of transparency that will be evidenced when the Government does in fact submit its goods and services schedule to WTO. The Bahamas Light Industries Development Council (BLIDC), whose primary mandate is the advancement and protection of the light industries sector within the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, have unique concerns.  Many of our members rely on protective tariffs on the products we produce in order to remain competitive locally. The protective tariffs are critical to our ability to remain active in the business community and continue employing Bahamians. In light of this, it is of utmost importance that the government take note of the protective tariff rates that have been requested. Further we ask that in transparency, the government share the rates that are eventually submitted to the WTO for negotiation.

The light industries sectors, comprised of manufacturing, light industries, and agro-processors, strongly contributes to the health of the local economy and employ no less than 3,800 Bahamians. The viability of manufacturing directly correlates with being able to operate on a level playing field, which is currently compromised by high electricity rates, costly labour and limited production scale. WTO membership may, in some instances, address scale, but can only be attained if high input costs are tackled. Consequently, in the current environment, protective tariffs on the products we produce is the primary mechanism enabling manufacturers to remain competitive. Irreparable damage will likely be done to the sector if these tariffs are not maintained.

One of the benefits being advanced regarding WTO accession is the encouragement of foreign direct investment (FDI), however such goals should not come at the detriment to existing Bahamian businesses. If local interests are not safeguarded, negative effects could completely negate the positive effects noted from accession.

In conclusion, we are mindful that the Government finds the country at a turning point, that we must either sink or swim; integrate into the world economy or be left behind. Yet the Government must ensure that what is working is not sacrificed for prospects. Local businesses, the light industries and otherwise, support and contribute to the economy of The Bahamas and must be preserved. What is needed therefore, is a comprehensive balanced approach that protects local businesses while encouraging investment in others. We believe that private sector involvement is paramount to achieving this objective.


General Meeting

Members of the BLIDC met on Friday September 29th to learn more about the recent work of the Board. The meeting was held at the Caribbean Bottling Company. Representatives from 29 different companies were present.


Members of the BLIDC meet with representatives of the Office of the Prime Minister to discuss the National Development Plan

August 30, 2017 at the offices of the Caribbean Bottling Co., members of the BLIDC met with representatives of the Office of the Prime Minister to discuss the future of the manufacturing sector in relation to the National Development Plan of The Bahamas.

Pictures from left to right are: Larry Farrington, Superior Label Services, Carina Ferguson, Chelsea’s Choice, Jonathan Cartwright, Cartwright’s Bedding (BLIDC Board Member), Kimani Smith, Purity Bakery, Nicola Virgill-Rolle, Office of the Prime Minister, Kemi Jones, Office of the Prime Minister, Karla Wells-Lisgaris, Caribbean Bottling Co. (BLIDC Board Member), Bradley Watson, Caribbean Bottling Co. (BLIDC President), and Walter Wells, Caribbean Bottling Co.