“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” – Romans 12:12
Recently several members of the Caribbean family of nations have been faced with one crisis after the other as a result of a series of high intensity hurricanes. These countries have had to muster all the help they can get and go into crisis communication mode to mitigate the impact of these disasters as they chart the recovery process.
Another looming set of crises in the Caribbean results from the inability of our island nations and coastal communities to increase the rate of sustainable economic growth. This slow growth rate, of course, is exacerbated by the natural disasters in the countries that have been affected. The entire region is affected because of the linkages in trade, tourism and policy in the region.
What can we do to change the status quo?
We need to shift gears now and go into aggressive crisis mitigation mode if we are to reduce the severity, seriousness, and pain brought about by economic stagnation and observe any meaningful change in the short and medium terms.
Government, business, trade unions, civil society and regional organisations have to work together rather than play “tug a war” and dissipate the region’s resources.
Governments are the biggest employer in a country. Is this because this number of employees is necessary to carry out the regulatory and service functions of government or could it be that these numbers could be significantly reduced and the productivity of those who remain be significantly enhanced? The challenge of doing the analysis to determine the optimal size civil service never seems to be entertained. After all, politically, there is the temptation to think that the larger the civil service the more concerned the government is about people in terms of their job status and family comfort, so why bother.
Also, what happens to those who will be displaced if the analysis does find that the civil service can be reduced? This is where enterprise development comes into play. Give the displaced workers an opportunity to become an entrepreneur rather than an employee. Much lip service is paid to this. Models for implementation exist but yet this concept never receives any significant sustained traction.
Government and the private sector need to work hand in hand to create an enabling environment where businesses thrive and grow on the export market. There is no shortage of business ideas in case the displaced workers decide to take the entrepreneurial plunge. There is no shortage of capable shepherds to provide the necessary business management guidance, including an excellent and innovative fund management system. But there is a shortage of investment funds at the seed working and equity capital levels.
Unions throughout the Caribbean focus on better working conditions for the employees but never overtly on more efficient employees for the businesses. If unions would shift their strategies to increasing employee productivity (labour, technology or process) then I am confident that they will find that their objective of better working conditions and happiness for their constituents will ultimately be improved and sustained.
Civil society comprises a large number of the citizens in a country. The church, NGOs, service clubs, retired persons who are not tired, associations in different sectors and consumer protection agencies can all help the government and the private sector in the design and support of their programmes as well as being the watchdog on behalf of the general public to maintain optimal levels of operation.
As is exemplified in John C. Maxwell’s book “Teamwork makes the Dream Work”.
Finally, in the absence of any federal government in the Caribbean, regional sectoral organisations have a responsibility to take the initiative to support the innovative national thrusts.
Let us mitigate the crises that lay ahead by rejoicing in hope for the future, being patient as we face trials and tribulations, being constant in prayer and meditating and listening to the answer to our prayers.