“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24

Trinidad and Tobago’s business conglomerate, Ansa McAl Group, in the last year, announced its first Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence. The Awards Programme is this year divided into three categories: Arts and Letters; Science and Technology; and Public and Civic Contributions.

It is at present the only programme to offer significant appreciation and tangible benefits to the Laureates. It represents a coming-of-age, in which Caribbean people are recognised for their achievement by their own respective communities. “It celebrates the excellence and the potential of Caribbean people, working for the benefit of the Region, our home.”

The goal of the programme stated by Francis Lewis, Programme Coordinator, is to recognise and encourage the pursuit of excellence by Caribbean people. “We are convinced that talent needs to be sought out, brought to light and encouraged. It is in this context that these Awards were conceived”.

The Awards, introduced last October, will have the inaugural presentation in October this year when three Laureates will each be presented with the Anthony Sabga Caribbean Award for Excellence Gold Medal and Citation. In addition the award will include US$80,000 each to support their work and professional development. This award will also present the opportunity for visibility, encouragement and support across the Caribbean and beyond.

The four fundamental criteria used in the Laureate selection process are a track record of consistent superior work that has demonstrated excellence, leadership and pioneership; the capacity for significant future achievement; the work has had or is likely to have a positive impact on the Caribbean Region for the benefit of the peoples of the Region; and the individual must be a worthy exemplar willing and available to serve as a model of excellence.

Lewis further explained that the Awards are not intended to be lifetime achievement awards, but to support and spur greater excellence. The selectors, he added, would identify prospective leaders of the next generation in their given fields.

“While it is essential for the Awardees to have already demonstrated excellence, it is critical that they have the potential to achieve even greater success in the future, with the appropriate support…The critical distinction is that their positive contribution and long-term, on-going involvement in the Region are widely accepted as a Caribbean person,” Lewis said.

The panel of Caribbean-born selectors is chaired by Sir Ellis Clarke and includes Dr. Wahid Ali, Justice Christopher Blackman, Mr. Christopher Bovell, Mrs. Judy Chang, Paul D’Ornellas Sr., Mr. Michael Mansoor, Sir Shridath Ramphal and Sir K. Dwight Venner. Five country nomination committees were established representing Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the OECS. Each committee recommended three candidates, one for each category.

Last weekend, in Trinidad, the 15 candidates were presented to the selectors by the five nomination committees represented by Fmr. Major General Joseph Singh (Guyana), Dr. Barbara Gloudon (Jamaica), Professor Kenneth Ramchand (Trinidad & Tobago) and Ambassador Charles Maynard (OECS). I had the honour to represent Barbados.

It is expected that by August, selection for the 2006 Caribbean Laureates would be completed. The awards ceremony is slated to take place in Trinidad and Tobago.

After the individual presentations by the country representatives and selectors, Dr. Anthony Sabga, Chairman of the ANSA McAL Foundation joined the group for lunch and photographs were taken. Later in the evening the group was joined at dinner by Gerry Brooks, ANSA McAL Group Chief Operating Officer and David Inglefield, ANSA McAL Group Marketing Director.

Last week we recognized the important opportunity that the Stanford 20-20 cricket tournament is presenting for the development of cricket in the region through a very significant financial investment. We must now work to ensure that we take advantage of this opportunity for the benefit of cricket development and the development of the people in the Caribbean.

This week we recognize the important contribution of the Ansa awards programme, which, based on my observations in Trinidad last weekend, could just be the tip of the iceberg in the context of recognizing our innovators and potential entrepreneurs, thus encouraging them to grow and develop in the interest of the sustainable development of the people of the region.

New Economics Foundation reported last week that the Caribbean island of Dominica is one of the top five happiest countries on Earth (out of 178 countries), according to a study measuring people’s wellbeing and their impact on the environment. The tiny South Pacific Ocean archipelago of Vanuatu is the happiest country and Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama complete the top five in the Happy Planet Index. The index combines life satisfaction, life expectancy and environmental footprint — the amount of land required to sustain the population and absorb its energy consumption. Congratulations Dominica!

These are just two private sector initiatives but what it says to me is that if the collective private sector were to be as creative as Stanford and Ansa then the Caribbean may well be on its way to bridge the economic divide between itself and OECD countries. My recent experience with entrepreneurs through CBET suggests many other ways in which the private sector may partner with entrepreneurs to stimulate the development of their enterprises in a timely manner.