“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” – Genesis 8:22
I understood from a news clip last Friday night on CBC TV that the Prime Minister of Barbados was encouraging the private sector to be more creative about engaging in businesses which will be net earners of foreign exchange.
In my day to day CBET activities where the mandate of CBET is “To facilitate the generation of business ideas and the promotion of business success in order to stimulate and sustain rapid global niche market growth for Small State economies”, there are many net foreign exchange earning opportunities. These include The diversified use of the Sugar Cane plant, The West Indian Sea Island Cotton and other Agricultural Value Added industries; the Tourism-Linkages, High-Tech Manufacturing and Renewable Energy industries; and Export of Services (Tourism, Informatics, Financial, Health, Consulting, Education, Entertainment and Sports).
In my opinion, the primary constraints to progress include (1) the lack of a clear understanding of the relative roles of the public and private sectors, (2) the need to shepherd the entrepreneur especially in the early stage of the business or at a stage where a major expansion is being contemplated and (3) the timely access to financial instruments appropriate to the different stages of the lifecycle of the enterprise.
The role of the private sector is to “do business”. The role of the public sector is to “create a user friendly enabling environment” in support of private sector enterprise and in the interest of achieving macro economic objectives, e.g. employment, net foreign exchange earnings and the optimal use of resources.
It is often tempting for the Government to get involved in “doing business”, for whatever reason but, in my opinion, the institutional framework of Government, political or the civil service, is not appropriate for “doing business” and will not be sustainable.
Entrepreneurs are usually very passionate about their enterprises, but we should not confuse this passion with good management capability. They need all the shepherding they can get.
Very often we hear of situations where a financial institution does not even look at an enterprise unless it has been operating for two years and presents a good business plan. What about the start-up entrepreneur with a good idea, the potential net foreign exchange earner and job creator (remember Bill Gates started in a garage) who has no money? How is he going to get off the ground? Who is going to pay for the business plan?
I was quoted in the Nation newspaper on July 26 as follows: “Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Inc. (ECCI) must have partners in the global market if it is to succeed in the sale of the finished products”. I returned to Barbados on July 28 just in time to meet Martin Carstarphen as he was on his way back to North Carolina after spending a week in Barbados. Martin’s firm Gulf Stream Trading was rejected by ECCI two years ago (for whatever reason) as a suitable partner. Over this two year period he has invested much in the further development of his brand image and his 100% pure West Indian Sea Island Cotton lines www.seaislandcotton.com. This apparel was on display during his visit.
He has persisted in trying to do business with Barbados. In the interest of us all, I hope there can be a meeting of the minds on this occasion. This will certainly help with the achievement of the PM’s objective of increased net foreign exchange earnings.
While on the subject of cotton, I noted an article in the Barbados Advocate of Tuesday 01 August, where it was reported that the Chief Agricultural Officer believes that labour (for harvesting the cotton) will continue to pose the greatest challenge to the cotton industry. It was intimated in the article that a solution was “a structured arrangement to get labour from other Caribbean states to assist them with the harvesting of cotton. This is one of the biggest challenges they will face if they want to expand”.
One of the risks associated with the expansion of the cotton acreage is the inefficient harvesting of the crop which results in harvesting immature cotton bolls or cotton lost by remaining on the plant or falling onto the ground. If the crop is not efficiently harvested by hand then there could be a resulting loss of revenue and morale.
In December 2004, CBET was commissioned by the Barbados Cotton Growers’ Association to “Design an efficient centrally managed manual harvesting system, with a payment system and incentive awards to attract pickers.” The comments from the participants concerning the problems experienced with the existing manual harvesting system were considered. A report, recommending an R&D exercise, was presented but no action taken.
Last Friday as the Leader of Government Business in the Senate (also Minister of Agriculture) was wrapping up the debate on E-Government, he was extolling the virtues of IT on productivity. If he extends the factors which impact on productivity to enhancement of human capital and process improvement, then it would seem sensible to apply this holistic concept to increasing the productivity in harvesting cotton rather than to move towards the inherently difficult and expensive solution to import labour from other Caribbean states.