Pharmaceutical companies have come to the forefront in the last 2 years for obvious reasons. The notion of ‘big pharma’ itself carries a negative connotation to many but, as with any other corporate body, they are private firms serving a purpose and offering products for a price. This is no different from a state attempting to whisk up revenue in order to meet its expenses. Perhaps common ground can be seen between both players here in the Caribbean? Here’s why:
Pharmaceuticals are an industry with staying power and longevity. Whether researching treatments for rare conditions like multiple sclerosis or working on less invasive and cheaper COVID-19 inoculations, they’re here to stay. After all, people always need treatments for problems and healthcare is a necessity wherever human society exists. This means nations seeking corporate investment and industrial establishment can look to forge long term partnerships provided policies and conditions are ideal. What attracts a company to your shores however?
Borrow A Page From Tax Havens
Everyone knows about tax havens. The name gives it away. Major companies and firms love establishing HQ’s there as they enjoy tax free operation and banking. Such nations tend to be small, resource deprived but innovative. Yet despite this ‘tax free’ existence for investors such nations still rake in huge amounts of money. How’s that possible? A short piece by Investopedia highlights some of these methods. These include simple things like work permit and renewal fees to taxes on luxury goods and products that expats or foreign employees would be known to indulge in. Furthermore, things like departure fees and business registration fees also accrue considerable funds. These aren’t necessarily deal breakers as the overall profit, funds saved and employee salaries would make it more than feasible for most of these companies to remain at a locale. However this all requires one major, important thing.
A Refined Bureaucracy Is Key
None of these things would even be remotely possible unless a bureaucratic framework is carefully set out that’s conducive to foreign investment. Indeed, each year the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report highlights and underscores just how important streamlined processes are to smooth, lucrative business. This would require Caribbean nations digitize, trim down and simplify red tape; a process that’s quite simple given today’s technology though politically divisive given the impact it may have on public sector employees and potential pushback. Regardless, ease of investment attracts investment. Many nations still suffer from old, outdated and convoluted bureaucracies not suited to today’s investment climate either due to a lack of political will or simple omission.
Opportunities To Develop Human Capital
To say the Caribbean lacks skill and human capital would be grossly misleading. Indeed, despite being geographically compact and small in population, the region produces many global experts and persons of value. However much of this is lost to larger, more economically diverse and opportunity laden nations. Investment from major pharmaceutical companies at the forefront of innovation and science could not only help alleviate brain drain draws away from our shores but also help develop human capital and improve the quality of life for many. According to the IMF some Caribbean territories lose as much as 40% of their skilled labour force to emigration with a minimum of 10% across most territories. This is a heavy and irreparable blow each year to long term economic development. By enlisting investment from companies requiring various tiers of labour be it in research, manufacturing or trade, something can be done to rectify this injustice.
An Environment Suited To The Task
In much the same way the Caribbean is an ideal place for agri-science and the development of new, resilient and productive crops, so too is it an ideal place for pharmaceutical establishment and research. Tropical climates and developing status presents numerous medical and healthcare issues unique to these circumstances. This affords a company avenue for research and consumers in equal measure. Skill and expertise from these companies can also carry over into healthcare and its improvement. Indeed, previously we spoke of the importance of creating ‘smart’, technologically integrated healthcare wherein data, information and streamlining of this can be used to the benefit of diagnoses and treatment.
A Hub Of Skill And Influence
The size of the Caribbean region, its composition of varying small economies and the overall lack of complex economies have oftentimes left it with little in the way of global influence. Yet, if anything, recent global examples have shown that even the smallest of nations can become influential and carry weight, particularly if it brags medical manufacturing or expertise in times of crisis. Indeed, for years Cuba has been renowned as an ‘exporter’ of global healthcare by way of its trained medical personnel. In much the same way, astute leadership and investment by pharmaceutical companies can pave the way for further investment, open markets and foreign expertise converging in a sort of ‘hub’. This can not only afford the region diplomatic influence with other nations but also reduce dependence on foreign supplied treatment and medical care during periods of global pandemic as is being witnessed right now.
Leaving Our Own Mark
Besides foreign investment the Caribbean region can use this expertise and foundation in order to create its own presence in pharmaceuticals. This can be anything from medical partnerships to research and even locally set up, licensed factories producing vital drugs. For example, it’s no secret that India is a major producer of pharmaceuticals. One of the more competitive aspects to this is that India produces and sells the same exact drug or product a ‘major brand’ would under a different, generic brand label with the exact same effect, use and quality. This has been a boon for developing and poorer nations as well as for less affluent and financially blessed strata of society. Local investors can, with the right decisions, mimic such a strategy, tapping into the developing markets of our region, neighbouring South America as well as the Caribbean’s central location among major shipping lanes. We don’t expect to overtake the world’s Top 10 Pharma companies like Roche or Johnson & Johnson but rather, seek to make our own strategic yet ideally lucrative mark.
Regardless of how one looks at it, more investment, particularly from pharmaceuticals, would do well for Caribbean nations. This isn’t some pipe dream or unattainable aspiration. At one point the small nation of Belize boasted one of Intel’s major microprocessor manufacturing centers while resource lacking Singapore has seated itself as a global icon for trade and investment.