“Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart” – Psalm 119:111

Just after I wrote last week’s column, I started my journey to Japan, under the auspices of the RUM (an acronym for “Re-Use Motorization”) Alliance to participate in the First International Conference on Automobile Recycling. In the same way that my first non-stop over visit to Singapore in 1993 stimulated my thinking along an innovative path which led to CBET, this first visit to Japan has re-stimulated my thinking in such a way that it could project CBET on an orbital path. The experience was awesome!

Since 1993, I have promoted the concept of “Barbados, the Singapore of the Caribbean”. If Barbados is striving to be the first Small Island Developing State (SIDS), after Singapore, to achieve first world status, then I believe that not only should it appropriately emulate some of the standards that we find in Singapore as a SIDS, but also adopt some of the examples of sustainable development from the Japan experience in developing benchmarks characteristic of first world status.

My first impression was that a polite, proud, efficient and disciplined culture pervaded the society. It is development “as if people really mattered”. Service Excellence exuded from each individual. The public transportation system was punctual to the nearest minute. In most public places there were three garbage bins, where garbage separation began. I witnessed a sample of musical culture “The Nioka Terai jazz quartet”. She is the best jazz violinist in Japan as was accompanied by a drummer, pianist and a double bass player.

About 10 percent of the 120 million Japanese residents live in Tokyo, which has a dazzling appearance of “endless wall to wall” concrete and steel, there are many public parks and well planned and manicured Japanese gardens in Tokyo to give that “green” relief. The economy is booming and there is no stark wealth divide. Buddhism dominates but Christianity exists in harmony. All the elements of sustainable development are alive and well.

Dr. Noel Brown (a Jamaican and former head of the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP); Mr. Norihiko Kondo (Director Representative of the RUM Alliance): and Mr Katsuya Abe (Consultant to the RUM Alliance) arranged my visit.

After the conference, which was held at the U Thant Conference Centre at UN House, Mr. Kondo was a most gracious host in his home town Kanazawa, Western Japan (an hour’s flying time from Tokyo), the site of his 32 year old used car sales and automobile recycling family business. This plant is objectively the cleanest recycling plant in Japan and enables re-use of as many materials as possible.

Mr. Kondo, together with a member of staff (the interpreter), took me on a personal tour of his plant and then immersed me in a Japanese sushi lunch. I survived. Kanazawa is an historical coastal fishing town on the Sea of Japan, across from its Korean and Chinese neighbours. It was not bombed in the Second World War and promotes its rich cultural heritage. I am told that the freshness of the fish enhances the quality of the sushi. I observed that obesity is not a problem in Japan and that life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. In the evening, Mr. Kondo hosted another eating experience at a traditional Japanese bar, hidden away in the old part of the city.

The next morning, we went through the historical palace gardens, a most relaxing experience, but viewed the palace from outside. The morning culminated with a more traditional lunch. Then to crown it all a group of us went to spend the night at the Yahsohatchi Natural Hot Springs for a traditional Japanese dining experience, communal hot springs bath, eating and sleeping “on the floor”, complete with Japanese dress as is appropriate for each activity. Now back to the conference in Tokyo.

Over 300 persons, private individuals and government officials, interested in the recycling business attended. The guest speaker was Mr. Tomofumi Hiraku (a senior Manager in the Ministry of the Economy). Mr. Anwarul Chowdhury (UN Under-Secretary-General responsible for SIDS) gave a video address. Dr. Noel Brown (President, Friends of the United Nations), Dr. Mushtaq Memon (a Pakistani from the UNEP office in Japan) and I addressed the gathering from different perspectives.

Mr Takashi Kiuchi, Chief Director of NPO Future 500, gave a report on his organizations work and the conference culminated with a Panel Discussion on “Where will 840 million cars go to? Let us think about Global Automobile recycling”. The panel was comprised of Brown, Memon, Springer as well as Kiuchi, Kondo, Koichi Sumino (CEO, Autobacs Seven Co.) Ltd. and Masataka Kumata (Hondo Motor Co. Ltd.). The moderator was Yuichi Mayama (NTV News Centre) and Prof. Kenichi Tugumi (University of Wales in Japan) was the commentator. There was simultaneous English/Japanese translation. The panelists’ chairs on the platform were from Kondo’s company’s automobile seat recycling department.

The conference concluded that, since automobile recycling is very critical to SIDS, consideration should be given to the holding the Second International Conference in Barbados in 2007, after consultation with the social partners in Barbados and Japan.

CBET’s interest is in developing a smart enterprise development partnership with Japan in the automobile recycling industry, in particular and sustainable development, in general.