ON THE RIGHT: Inadequate standards hurting potential
THE SOLUTION to the economic problems of Barbados lies in part in enhancing the industrial and export activity. This is only possible if the quality of Barbados’ goods and services is improved to meet international standards and remain cost competitive in the national and export markets.
Increasingly, global purchasers demand products and services that meet rigorous and advanced standards (acceptable quality), not only to ensure that such products and services integrate seamlessly with others in the supply chain, but also to satisfy customer expectation and to comply with an array of technical regulations of the importing countries for health, safety and environmental protection.
The national quality policy for Barbados is expected to facilitate Barbados’ access to the global market and enhance the competitiveness of its goods and services. The policy is expected to be based on the development of the current international trends, the local situation and the benefits from re-engineering the national quality infrastructure (NQI) and the technical regulations regime.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO), with trade liberalisation and trade rules, has provided Barbadian enterprises with opportunities for business expansion. Those businesses which are determined and willing to compete and which continually strive for improving the quality of their goods and services will find ready markets.
Those companies unable to compete face the threat of losing international as well as local markets. Barbados’ future export will greatly depend on its ability to exploit opportunities made by agreements such as the European Union/CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement and CARICOM Agreement.
The formation of the WTO in 1995, coupled with the international trading agreements on technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, brought into sharp focus the importance of international standards in international trade.
This has posed serious challenges to enterprises in Barbados and the NQI, including the national regulatory system, all of which are in need of further development. The WTO promotes competitiveness in trade and lays emphasis on the harmonisation of standards, testing, metrology, certification and accreditation, which are the five pillars of the NQI.
All these measures have led to reduced trade barriers and facilitate the supply of quality products and services, and have encouraged competition in the world market. Under the WTO rules, the international markets are regulated through the mechanism of laws, technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment. Such a trade environment tends to promote timely delivery of quality products and services in the international market at competitive prices.
In order to compete successfully in developed markets, Barbados’ industry, especially the small and medium-sized enterprises, faces a formidable array of challenges. Apart from the logistics, management and financial issues, one of the major difficulties is the attainment of demonstrable product and service quality demanded by regulatory authorities as well as by the major players in the market.
In order to exploit foreign markets, it is required that Barbados’ industry has access to an internationally recognised but supportive NQI that can provide the required evidence of product compliance. There is an urgent need for strengthening the NQI institutions as well as the technical regulatory mechanism to control the availability of substandard goods and services in the market.
Dudley Rhynd, standardisation consultant, is a former director of the Barbados National Standards Institution. He has prepared a new national quality policy for Government.