“And let our people also learn to set a good example in following honest occupations for the supply of their necessities, so that they may not live useless lives” Titus 3:14
Last Thursday the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) mounted their 13th Annual Continuing Professional Education Conference at Sherbourne Conference Centre. The theme for the entire day was, “Changing Roles in the Global Economy” and the final session for the day was a panel discussion that focused on “Enhancing Barbados’ Business Culture”.
Mr. David Ellis of Starcom Network expertly moderated the panellists. Starcom is now part of the merged Trini-Bajan entity One Caribbean Media Limited. On his right were two Trinidadians, Mr. Robert Le Hunte, CEO of Barbados National Bank, and Dr. Emily Dick-Forde from the Department of Management Studies, University of the West Indies at Cave Hill. On his left were two Barbadians, Ms. Debbie Simpson of Simpson Motors, and myself.
After introductory statements by the panellists, the moderator got ‘down to brass tacks’. Each panellist, in turn, explored the impact of the ‘Changing Roles in a Global Economy’ on ‘Enhancing Barbados’ Business Culture’. It was clear that globalisation, as manifested by trade liberalisation and the information technology and telecommunications revolutions, meant that the world was not going to be the same again. It was observed that, right here in the Southern Caribbean, there was an interesting scenario being played out where the greater entrepreneurial and aggressive business environment in Trinidad & Tobago has preyed on the apparent success and comfort of Barbados to satisfy their pangs of hunger towards socio-economic gain. In time to come, we could expect that similar global predatory forces will descend on Barbados, maybe in our best interests.
Indeed, the continuing passion by the panellists alluded to the fact that the relatively complacent business culture in Barbados should learn from the dynamic phenomenon that is Trinidad & Tobago and be proactive in ‘following honest occupation for the supply of their necessities so that they may not live useless lives’ and create a future for our children and grand-children. Let us exhibit proactive leadership and not wait until a crisis forces us to change.
Since independence, Trinidadians have been faced with devaluations of their currency, instability in harmonious governance of the country and have, at times, been devastated by fluctuations in real estate value, various uprisings and social decay. The T&T ‘money no problem’ scenario has also been through a cyclical process but, as an oil producing country, they have basked in the wake of the rising world oil price and this has contributed to their strength and buoyancy today.
What should Barbados do? Barbados must recognise that some of its traditional industries are in their sunset phase and a sunrise industry thrust is required for us to aspire to sustainable economic growth. Otherwise, there is no future for posterity. However, economic growth is not sufficient and we therefore have to focus on our spiritual, cultural, social and physical environments.
The entrepreneurial culture must be developed to the extent that the average rate of success of entrepreneurs is increased from 20% to 80%. This can be addressed by the CBET shepherding model, which ensures that the entrepreneur must be accompanied on its journey to business success by the twin companions of money and management in optimal combination.
Spiritual awareness must be brought to the fore of our consciousness in order to give us contentment, insight and a positive way of viewing the world. We must continue to search for our cultural identity, which strengthens our underpinning and induces an appreciation for the finer things in life. Social stability is a manifestation of our appreciation for our fellow man. Businesses must be more caring regarding their staff and thus exude a social responsibility. Staff need to focus on higher levels of excellence in service and enhance their productivity for fair compensation. We are guilty of not paying attention to our physical environment at the risk of irreversible decay in planet Earth. We are not paying enough attention to the abundance of renewable energy resources, such as the sun, to minimize our dependence on fossil fuels, the side-effects of which contribute the destruction of our planet.
Barbados must learn from Singapore and the Republic of Ireland who have been transformed from ‘a sleepy fishing village’ and ‘a basket case’, respectively, into stable emerging nations as they implemented their sunrise industrial thrust. I could not help but think, when I attended the 30th Sir Winston Scott Memorial Lecture two weeks ago at the Central Bank of Barbados, about the wealth of information and ideas to which we would have been exposed over the years. To what extent have we taken the initiative to assemble a team of experts who can convert this wealth of knowledge into meaningful initiatives for Barbados?
Lastly, the mass media have direct channels of communication to the general public. In my opinion they have a responsibility to take a leadership role in, not only informing the Barbadian public, but also in extending their sound bytes beyond these shores. I would further say that, unless they do this effectively, the concept of CSM(E) will be merely a vision on our horizon.