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BICA chief: Don’t fear competition under WTO

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

photo

Gowon Bowe

The Bahamas must not fear competition in a post-WTO environment, a top accountant argued yesterday, as it now has an “issues checklist” to help prepare itself.

Gowon Bowe, pictured, the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) president, told Tribune Business that this nation must avoid being seen to promote “anti-competitive and protectionist behaviour” given that the Oxford Economics report on has provided a road map for creating a business environment that boosts local companies.

Speaking to the findings of a study commissioned by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), Mr Bowe said: “I think the main message coming out of it is that we should not be afraid of WTO (the World Trade Organisation) because we are afraid to compete. We should be focused on how we make ourselves more competitive.

“We should always be willing to compete. As a small nation, a large part of our ability to grow and expand is going to be the ability to penetrate other markets, and what we do not want is them having a similar attitude we see expressed - that it is fine if we want to go into a new market as Bahamians, but we don’t want a new market to come into The Bahamas.”

The BICA chief added: “We have to be very careful that we are not seen to be promoting anti-competitive and protectionist behaviour. We should be focused on how we enhance and encourage competition that allows local businesses to service their own market in a high-value manner with very competitive prices.

“For those industries saying what the barriers are that make them uncompetitive, then we have to look at the reforms necessary for removing those barriers.”

Mr Bowe said The Bahamas must now carefully assess the advantages and disadvantages associated with full WTO membership, with the Oxford Economics report providing what he described as an “issues checklist” of internal reforms that must be implemented to enhance this nation’s competitiveness in a liberalised, rules-based trading environment.

“I think ultimately, at the end of the day, we have to look and say: ‘Do the pros outweigh the cons, or do the rewards outweigh the risks?’,” he told Tribune Business. “We have to do a better job of aggregating benefits and risks between commercial entities or businesses and consumers.

“When we talk about improvement in prices, the consumer is always going to be in favour of that while not necessarily appreciating that commercial entities provided employment. There has to be a balance between appreciating that if I give consumers all the best prices, and businesses go out of business as a result, then you won’t have anything to consume as a consumer.”

Mr Bowe added: “I think the report provides an issues checklist. How do you improve foreign currency earnings? We have to look at the cost of doing business, the ease of doing business, the energy reform and the structural reform necessary to have a more competitive price per kilowatt hour in terms of running a business.

“We have to look at our capital infrastructure, our tax infrastructure, our social programmes to ensure that all these are being meshed to where actually we are achieving a common goal. We have been an economy that has benefited from our proximity to the US, our time zone and tax system, which made us a magnet for businesses of the past.

“Now we have to develop our value proposition in all industries, and there are those industries that we may have not fully taken advantage of in the past because we may have not wanted to redeploy resources.”

Mr Bowe said the private sector must have the right environment to be competitive. “When we talk about the industries most greatly impacted, are we saying the end consumer is getting the best price and, if not, how do we help businesses become more competitive to provide a high-quality product at competitive prices?” he asked.

“The argument should not be for businesses to want to protect, if you will, their industry, but it should be how do we ensure that we have an environment that allows us to be competitive so that the strongest survive but not from a disadvantageous position where local businesses may feel like they’re fighting with one arm behind their back.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 2 months ago

Bowe said: “I think the main message coming out of it is that we should not be afraid of WTO (the World Trade Organisation) because we are afraid to compete."

We're not afraid to compete Mr. Bowe. What we are afraid of is competing on a playing field where the rules are set by the much larger developed countries and don't apply to all equally. Just take a look at how our financial sector has been all but annihilated since the early 1990's as a result of us having signed on to everything put to us by the OECD, FATF, IMF, etc. We would quickly find the playing field for full WTO members to be just as uneven, unfair and detrimental to the overall economic well being of our small country.

The WTO was created for the much bigger fish to swim as freely as possible in the international trade pond. But its governance, rule making and dispute resolution mechanisms make it much easier for the big fish members to devour the guppy size economies of much smaller nations like the Bahamas. Joining the WTO would be the equivalent of serving ourselves up on a platter as a guppy meal for the big fish to quickly devour. Put another way, feather weight boxers who step into the ring with heavy weight boxers are only asking for serious trouble.

bcitizen 5 years, 2 months ago

Bahamian business should absolutely be scared of competition. When electricity doesn't work and cost 4 times more, water doesn't work, phones don't work. High speed internet is a joke, can't access foreign capital, can't use PayPal, amazon, or internet services, can't open up a bank accounts without giving a dna sample, a first born child, and the colour of your house, if you have a bank on your island. Our government struggles to fix roads and put books and toilet paper in the schools. Businesses waste valuable time and resources dealing with out to lunch, gone to pickup their children, and come back tomorrow government workers. Registering a company costs more than almost anywhere else on Earth. Businesses license is based in gross income not profits. The list is almost endless. Yes we should all fear outside competition when we are so hamstrung by the government.

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