“Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be” – Job 8:7
Last week I reviewed our progress over the last 60 years. What are the opportunities for growing the economy? We often talk about the services economy of the future. Well, the future is here and now. We must focus on the following: 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 (Film, Informatics, Financial, Health, Consulting, Education, Entertainment and Sports) to complement the success which we have had in the tourism sector. Hopefully, the restructured Barbados Investment & Development Corporation and its proposed smart partnership with the Barbados Tourism Authority and the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association will be a stimulus in this context.
The linkages between tourism and agriculture and other sectors, have been under-exploited. We have an abundance of renewable energy sources in sun, wind and wave.. The high fossil fuel sourced energy prices make it mandatory that we act swiftly in developing solar electricity, for example, to be fed into the national grid. This is a natural evolution from the already very successful solar water heating enterprise which has saved us so much foreign exchange over the last 30 years. Of course, in addition to contributing to our energy security, renewable energy makes a positive contribution to the physical aspect of environmental sustainability.
Water is necessary to sustain life and we are neither blessed with rivers, lakes nor an abundance of rainfall. We have to be very clever in capturing whatever rainfall there is and to minimise the leaks in the distribution system. Greenhouse technology and drip irrigation have now become mandatory in conserving the water use for a diversified agriculture. Capturing the run-off from roof tops in underground tanks is now part of the modern legislative requirement and I am sure that the application of other sophisticated technologies will evolve which make this process even more efficient. There is an unlimited supply of sea water and, with the advent of solar electricity, I am sure we will see an increase in the percentage of our potable water from this source.
Ground transportation has become a challenge, but we have not been sufficiently innovative in finding solutions to the problem. The recent debate relating to flyovers or no flyovers has sparked a lot of attention. I somehow believe that if we had a four-lane highway from Christ Church to St. Lucy (South-North), there would be no need for flyovers. Time will tell. Another way of alleviating some of the traffic on the road would be to establish a ‘park and ride’ hydrofoil system feeding into Bridgetown from the South and the West Coasts. Whatever the solution we come up with, the benefit would be less time spent on the roads and the access to greater productivity which will contribute to our increased competitiveness.
The health of our community is of paramount importance. Good health may be sustained through diet, exercise and peace of mind. This needs to be emphasised from Primary School so that the young children may get into the correct habits from an early age. The challenge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is an important to this educational process and efforts must be accelerated in this regard. Obesity is one of the major factors which contribute to the incidence of chronic diseases and we need to develop the discipline to control this.
As people become more empowered, their earning capacity will increase and this will lead to easier access to sports facilities and exercise gyms which help to obtain high levels of physical fitness. I am always amazed, however, when I go to the beach and venture into the sea, how few local people take advantage of this resource which, in my opinion, is a holistic panacea for mental, physical and emotional ills. Here is where you can recover from physical injury, stress and achieve peace of mind at no cost at the point of delivery.
The poverty situation is not to be ignored, even though the empowerment of the individual will, to a large extent, address this issue. In the meantime those who are at the bottom levels of the socio-economic ladder would need some assistance.
Government has to be creative in obtaining its revenue. This may be done through taxation or borrowing. Borrowing should be restricted to support long-term developmental projects, whereas taxation has to be dynamic and creative since the objective would not only be to increase the taxes collected, but to stimulate the growth of the economy. Of course, much emphasis needs to be paid to the collection of these taxes; the existing delinquency levels are much too high.
Radio and television, even though we can do little to minimise the influence from the communication diet fed by the global environment, much can be done to increase the standard and content of local programming and to raise the quality benchmarks of a country striving towards first-world status.
The Prospects for National Progress and Development in Barbados are good. Barbados now needs to do an audit of its progress towards first-world status and to take corrective action where objectives have not been achieved.