LEADING Saint Lucian manufacturer, Ronald Ramjattan, has told government and business leaders from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, OECS, of his firm belief that sustainable economic growth in the OECS can only be achieved by penetrating the global market, one successful innovative business after another.
“When the OECS wins we all win!” Ramjattan, who is the CEO of Baron Foods Limited, told the Business Symposium and Innovation Forum held, in the Sir Cecil Jacobs Auditorium at the Headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in St. Kitts.
The Baron Foods Limited CEO recalled leaving his native Guyana for Saint Lucia to devote his energies to establishing his very own food processing plant in 1991, which expanded to Grenada a year later and is now one of the leading export agro-processors in the OECS.
Ramjattan told his audience that the experience has taught that in order to be sustainable and contribute to growth in the OECS, backward linkages in the sub-region have to be at the level of the highest standards in the world.
He asserted that all OECS service industries, including public servants, immigration and health, as well as the private sector, including manufacturing and the financial and tourism sectors, have to aim for international standards such as those which exist in countries like Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.
Ramjattan said that the role of the government should be to lead change by stating the policy for business growth and supporting such policy by providing a dynamic enabling environment, within which the role of the private sector should be to manage strategy and drive business growth.
He told his audience that most governments have a policy for business growth, but asserted that the supporting enabling environment within which the private sector will manage is not as strong as it should be, thus impeding the path of progress to sustainability.
Pointing to the high level of risk and failure associated with start-up enterprises, Ramjattan suggested that government should therefore give priority to an innovative funding solution for start-up businesses, as part of the enabling environment.
He explained that when the business has demonstrated good management and has developed strong enough cash flows, it may then approach financial institutions for investment.
“If start-up businesses are not able to get off the ground because of a lack of investment finance support, then the country’s potential economic growth suffers commensurately,” Mr. Ramjattan declared.
The Baron Foods Limited CEO, who is also President of the Saint Lucia Manufacturers Association, said the funding outlay or incentive by government to the private sector for funding start-up businesses, supported by mentoring, should not be regarded as a “hand-out”, but should be measured in economic terms as the businesses contribute to economic growth, mitigate the risk of failure, and secure the government investment.