Barbados Woos Tech Firms

Reginald Farley would like you to think of Barbados as more than just a paradise.

Reginald Farley would like you to think of Barbados as more than just a paradise. If he and other government officials have their way, the island nation may become a new India or Ireland — countries U.S. technology companies have looked to when moving operations overseas.

Barbados is trying to show U.S. technology companies and other potential foreign investors that it is "not a sleepy little island," said Farley, Barbados minister of industry and international business.

To do this, Barbados and other Caribbean countries have launched aggressive campaigns to ensure they become part of the information-based economy. Barbados is offering such incentives as a 2.5 percent corporate tax rate for international businesses, exemptions from import duties for production equipment and financial assistance for training workers. According to Barbados government, such breaks can help companies reduce their operating costs by up to 40 percent.

Farley also pointed to an educated work force, low labor costs and a modern telecommunications infrastructure — not to mention a pleasant location. The country has launched a program to wire all of its classrooms to the Internet, passed electronic authentication and other measures to bring its laws up to date with the Internet age, and is in the process of deregulating its telecommunications market.

"One of things we have to fight against is the perception that Barbados is all tourism," Farley said. "We want to let people know that even in paradise, there are persons who work to keep businesses running."

Other Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, have also been working to strengthen their economies by building up their technology sectors. The Jamaican government released a report in January outlining a plan to make it the "center for IT [information technology] activities and investment in the Caribbean." Among the strengths these countries can point to are an English-speaking population and close proximity to the U.S., said Bruce McConnell, president of McConnell International, which advises countries on tech issues.