“Whether to recognize achievement, strengthen relationships or communicate effectively, delivering a quality event can be a huge undertaking without the proper resources and experience” – Excerpt form the Grass Roots Group – www.grg.com

The inspiring Barbados Society for Technologists in Agriculture conference, on Saturday before last, consisted of two panel discussions on the current state of the West Indian Sea Island Cotton and Sugar Cane industries. CBET had been commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture to prepare Business Plans on each and, in the case of cotton, to establish the new company, Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Inc. (ECCI). Mr. Coleridge Pilgrim gave an account of the history of cotton in Barbados, then I gave an account of the input of CBET over the last two years and Mrs. Lorna Garner, CEO of ECCI, indicated the direction in which the company is being led since her assumption of office six months ago.

There was a stimulating exchange from the audience who are looking forward to the sustainable development of the industry as ECCI moves to obtain benefits along the value chain by converting the lint processed in Barbados to knitted and woven finished goods for wholesale and retail.

The sugar cane diversification discussion was equally stimulating. The focus was on converting the existing sugar industry into an industry where the product will be primarily the generation of electricity from a renewable energy source in partnership with the Barbados Light & Power Co. Ltd. Dr. Rao from the West Indies Sugar Cane Breeding Station in Barbados talked about the breeding and multiplication of “fuel cane” varieties which are higher in fibre content than the traditional sugar cane varieties for making sugar, but which still have enough sucrose for the commercial extraction of sugar and its traditional as well as innovative bi-products.

Dr. Atlee Brathwaite, CEO of Barbados Sugar Industries Ltd. (BSIL) representing private sector growers (who are responsible for 60% of the total sugar acreage), confirmed that his constituency was willing to play their part in the new dispensation. Mr. Barton Clarke, Chief Agricultural Officer, was the third panellist and he explained that, even though the output of the diversified sugar cane industry would be wax, speciality sugars, molasses, rum and electricity, it would not be done via the sugar cane separation technology which CBET had proposed. There was a window of opportunity to produce 18,000 acres of fuel cane to generate electricity by 2008, the next threshold for expansion for the Barbados Light & Power Co. Ltd., and the partnership would be moving full speed to mount this new initiative.

Last Monday. a public education seminar, on ‘The Changing Face of the Financial System in Barbados – Implications for National Development’, was mounted by the University of the West Indies Alumni Association (Barbados Chapter) and the Barbados Institute of Banking & Finance Inc. We learnt about the changes that had been made over the last 10-20 years in the financial institutions and the instruments which they offer to the public. During the discussion period, there was an impassioned plea from members of the audience for financial institutions to pay attention to the emerging private sector which had special financial needs that were not currently being met by the existing system. It was pointed out that financial institutions, quite understandably, focused for the most part on the improvement of their profits.

My argument, however, is that this should not be done at the expense of national economic growth. I think that a strategy could be devised where investment of some of the commercial bank profits should be made to facilitate growth of the emerging private sector. This could redound to the benefit of both the bank and the emerging private sector as well as the country in the future. An increased growth rate for the country then benefits everybody, including the commercial banks.

A target should be set for rates of growth of the foreign exchange earning sectors alone. In other words, the construction sector, which is primarily a foreign exchange absorption sector, should be excluded from this growth rate target. Commercial banks should then be asked to accept the challenge of providing financial instruments which facilitate the achievement of this target. CBET coordinates the entrepreneurial, money, management mix for emerging businesses. CBET practises the ‘Management as Collateral’ concept where the management provides the collateral which protects against the risk of business failure and, hence, provides security for the financial investment.

Last Wednesday, the Barbados Chapter of Investment Professionals treated us to a seminar on ‘The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Hedge Fund and Event Investment’. This seminar provided much food for thought and it was heartening to note that there was interest in Barbados to develop hedge funds as another financial instrument to stimulate the growth of this economy.

Amidst all of this, I was interacting with my son Bevan via email and telephone in a virtual office environment as we prepared for CMExPress which will be mounted in Trinidad next Friday to discuss World Cup 2007. Local journalists will be stimulated by local, regional and international resource persons to brainstorm the issues as well as the opportunities that exist in the potential natural and contrived legacy vision arising from this event.