“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” – Psalm 37:4

As we embark on another year, what shall be our focus regarding sustainable economic development? Let us designate 2006 as the Year of the Entrepreneur and let us seek divine guidance so that our desires might be fulfilled.

Many will desire stable gainful employment and by this they will mean a job with an employer and a salary. The alternative is an opportunity with a fee, where you are your own employer. You have control if you are given the guidance and are willing to work towards specific objectives.

Set yourself up as a business, preferably through a home office to increase convenience and reduce overheads. Avail yourself of the latest in technology to offer your services to a client(s). If this is readily adopted, we would be creating an entrepreneurial environment which is conducive to higher levels of productivity but which has responsibilities in terms of management of change from the traditional to the innovative.

With the formal advent of the Caribbean Single Market on Jan 01 2006, this entrepreneurial thrust must be an essential weapon in the armoury of the governance of a country if we are to minimise the inevitable dislocation that will arise from the freedom of movement of people from country to country.

At this point, I think that we should note that there is at least one area of expertise, that is in the Information and Communications Technology sector, where it is virtually impossible to find individuals with the required training and experience to take advantage of opportunities, which have been created by the ICT revolution. The freedom of movement of people in the Caribbean is not going to solve this since, even if one country is more attractive to individuals skilled in these areas, that will immediately create a problem in the country from which the individuals have moved. There are two ways to solve this. One is to be proactive and train your own people at a rate, which is commensurate with the level of demand. The other is to import resources from extra-regional sources until the natural supply develops within the region.

I recall that, with the advent of PRT (an offshore software development company) about ten years ago, a number of Masters degree resources had to be imported from India. At that time, it was proposed that the Barbados Information Technology Institute should be established to augment the supply of specialist resources, but this has been to no avail. PRT and others have come and gone and Barbados is no further ahead as a destination of choice for significant direct foreign investment or local investment in the emerging ICT sector.

The Trade Union fraternity should be very concerned about these issues and should be doing something proactively to urge the social partners to become visionary and act with responsibility in addressing this problem. I have also said, time and time again, that trade unions should, in the new millennium, be focused on increasing the productivity of their members for fair compensation to ensure that our workplace can be as competitive as possible in the global environment. There seems to be a temptation by trade unions to pursue the admirable objective of enhancing the lot of their members in terms of increased wages. However, even if they are successful at doing this, in industries where productivity is low or which simply cannot afford the increase at a given time, it will not be to the immediate good of the company nor the ultimate national good.. This will merely result in a shifting of the burden across the tax net, without necessarily enhancing competitiveness and stimulating economic growth. If we do not aim for sustainable economic growth, our children and grandchildren will be ‘dead in the water’.

What, therefore, can we do?

CBET has developed a model to stimulate Entrepreneurial Activity supported by Management and Money. Sunrise industries are beginning to emerge with the potential to grow into large enterprises, through product diversification and niche market expansion. But, alas, this model too will not be successful unless the social partners shoulder their responsibility.

My experience is that, as we develop this new CBET thrust, more and more resource persons are responding to the virtual employment environment option. I have also been pleasantly surprised and gratified to observe that both the public and private sector are beginning to accept the responsibility of contributing technical assistance and seed funding, in partnership with the entrepreneur and CBET, in the early stages of enterprise development.

As CBET provides its facilitation services at the Opportunity Assessment, Business Plan Development, and Start-Up Business Activity stages, more and more support from the social partners will be required to mitigate the risk and defray the initial costs associated with this early stage of business development, if a respectable rate of growth in the economy is to be sustained. Also, the more businesses we have, the more virtual management resources are going to be required to shepherd these businesses to success and, in this context, CBET formally invites interested persons to seek further information in this regard (basilgf@caribsurf.com).