THERE IS a growing concern that unemployment in manufacturing could rise if more attention is not given to the development and sustainability of the sector.

To help avoid this, executive director of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) Bobbi McKay has issued a plea to foreign nationals operating businesses to support local producers.

There was a decrease in employment within the manufacturing sector last yearby 8.1 per cent to 7 660 at the end of December 2012, compared to 8 334 at the end of December 2011.

The services sector recorded a total of 3 105 employees at the end of December 2012, 18.6 per cent or 689 less than 3 704 in 2011, according to information from the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation’s website.

McKay told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that when companies operating here imported items that could be sourced locally, this not only negatively affected employment but also the standard of life, adding that it was critical that Barbadians purchased more locally produced items.

“The money should not only be going out of the country to buy from your own country,” McKay said. “Leave something here because the quality of life we have here right now we want to secure. Barbadians are now unsure about employment because you are importing everything that you need from your home country.”

The BMA executive added: “If you have a supermarket and you have products that are Barbadian and products from your home country give them equal prominence.

Barbadians have to be working to spend money in your institution or business so it doesn’t make sense coming and investing here and you are not ensuring that you care about the quality of life you are enjoying.”

Chief executive officer of Oran Limited, Scott Oran, in a separate interview, said he believed manufacturing could play a greater role in growing the local economy.

He said that despite the various challenges within the sector, “it doesn’t mean it is lost forever. It just means there needs to be a mindset to really develop [it].

“Many people think of just tourism as the industry but manufacturing is a very viable strategy for the future in terms of finding employment and bringing more skills to the population,” said Oran.

The president of the BMA, David Foster, said that while the sector could do with a lot more attention in developing it, other areas needed to be addressed as well.

“Not just manufacturing, the whole agriculture sector needs far more attention,” he said.

“Food security is something we certainly need to look at. It starts from the agricultural sector and that leads into processing which then becomes part of the manufacturing sector.”

Foster, who is the managing director of Roberts Manufacturing, said he welcomed any incentive to assist producers.

In this connection, the executive said he welcomed any tax breaks that could be extended to the sector.

McKay disclosed that the BMA had put together a number of recommendations that the Minister of Finance could include in the Budget, expected this summer, which could assist players in the sector.

“Something as simple as the removal of VAT on solar water heaters will increase sales. Something simple as giving manufactures the opportunity to produce furniture for schools will give them the opportunity to justify keeping staff employed,” she said. (MM)