Barbados Network Consultation (BNC) Diaspora Conference Attracted Hundreds
The Barbados Network Consultation (BNC) 2012
attracted hundreds of Barbadians living abroad, their descendants and friends of the country.
Those attending this affair included four hundred (400) delegates from the United States, the UK, Cuba and Panama, among others, and Totally Barbados was there to cover the event.
They converged at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC) for the four-day conference, held under the theme “Linking Generations-Embracing Our Youth”.
Central to the meeting was the idea that Barbadians and their descendants living overseas have over the years contributed much to the island’s development and this support could be enhanced with a more focused approached.
It was a point emphasised by Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart during his address to the gathering. He noted that money sent home by Barbadians living overseas has increased significantly over the past 20 years.
In fact, he said, those funds are now among the top sources of foreign exchange for Barbados and sometimes amount to more than foreign direct investment and funding from developed nations.
For this reason, Prime Minster Stuart referred to overseas Barbadians as major partners in the development of Barbados. In keeping with that mindset, the government of Barbados has been seeking to provide even more opportunities for them to invest in the country.
The prime minister said, for example, that work has already begun on the development of a Diaspora bond, which would allow Barbadians and Barbadian descendents overseas to invest in a specially designed investment instrument.
He also drew their attention to the government’s plans for an Initial Public Offering of 30% of the shares of Grantley Adams International Airport Incorporated and the Barbados Port Authority, as well as the intention to list those companies on the Barbados Stock Exchange.
These are some of the medium to long-term benefits Barbados hopes to derive from a strengthening of ties between overseas Barbadians and their ancestral home. The country has however, also been able to capitalise on the conference in the short-term.
The influx of visitors was welcomed by Tourism officials and industry players, a point made by the president of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) even before the conference. They were particularly grateful because early August, after the Crop Over Festival has climaxed, is traditionally a slow period for the industry.
Mindful ofthat, the organisers planned the conference in such a way as to allow the delegates to take in many of the attractions of Barbados. The event also gave local manufacturers and other producers an opportunity to showcase their products to a captive market interested in supporting and investing in the country.
The closing session took the form of a town hall meeting in which participants were encouraged to share their views about the conference.
Much of the feedback was positive and the general consensus was that the BNC had achieved its objective of bringing local and overseas Barbadians together in the interest of Barbados.
There were however some suggestions for improvements. These included providing additional opportunities for feedback and utilizing social media and information technology to reach out to more young people and those who could not actually make it to Barbados for the conference.
August 14th, 2012