“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good and his mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations” – Psalm 100: 4-5.

We hear tell that Barbados is aspiring to be a first world Nation. How do we know when we have achieved this status? What are our targets, what are our performance indicators, and what strategies are we going to use to get us there? The answers to these questions may be found in the recently released first National Strategic Plan for Barbados.

The Vision for Barbados is stated as “A fully developed society that is prosperous, socially just and globally competitive”. The six Strategic goals are: “Unleashing the Spirit of the Nation”; “New Governance for New Times”; Building Social Capital”; Strengthening the Physical Infrastructure and Preserving the Environment”; Enhancing Barbados’ Prosperity and Competitiveness”; and “Branding Barbados Globally”.

Our challenge is to move expeditiously forward as we strive for global excellence while preserving Barbadian traditions. We now have to diligently execute this plan. Can we learn from other countries which have exhibited phenomenal growth? Let us look briefly at Ireland, Dubai and Singapore.

Ireland’s recent economic history is characterized by what is now the cliché of the ‘Celtic Tiger’. The statistics of Ireland’s remarkable development are average GDP growth between seven and 10 per cent since the mid-1990s. Fuelled by EU membership and effective investment promotion policies, the Irish economy has been transformed over a period of two decades from a European backwater into the fastest-growing economy in the EU.

Hitherto Ireland had not been industrialized to the same degree as the rest of Europe, and only recently has agriculture been overtaken as the largest single contributor to the national product. It remains a key sector, and the Government is seeking to consolidate its role within the economy by modernization and expansion of food-processing industries. Most of Ireland’s economic development in the 1990s, however, was in the services sector. Banking and finance have grown to the extent that Dublin now supports a sizeable international financial centre, while tourism has become a substantial foreign exchange earner.

Dubai is experiencing a growth rate of 7% and rising. Oil was discovered in 1966. In the year 1969 Dubai exported its first barrel of oil. Ever since then there has been no looking back. Dubai’s history records a consistent development in this field. The development in the production of oil not just contributed vastly to the income of Dubai but also helped it to develop its infrastructure in terms of its economy and society, like hospitals, schools, tourism and other provisions that characterize a developed society. The direct hydrocarbon contribution to GDP is now less than 20%. Singapore has maintained an economic growth rate of 8%. Singapore has a highly developed market-based economy, which historically revolves around an extended re-export trade because of its geographical location. The economy depends heavily on exports, refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing. Manufacturing constitutes 28% of Singapore’s GDP. The manufacturing industry is well-diversified into electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences manufacturing. Singapore is the world’s fourth largest foreign exchange trading centre after London, New York City and Tokyo. Singapore has been rated as the most business-friendly economy in the world. The city-state employs thousands of foreign workers from around the world.

In summary, Ireland has had a boost from its membership of the EU; Dubai discovered oil in 1966; Singapore has developed its human capital to the fullest and focused on service exports and high tech manufacturing; they have all leveraged their competitive advantages.

Singapore, like Barbados, is a small island state. When Lee Kwan Yew took over its reins in 1959, Singapore was behind Barbados (based on all macro-economic indicators). Singapore gained its Independence in 1965 and took off. Barbados gained its Independence in 1966 and has trundled along. With reference to our recent history and the National Heroes of Barbados, only now are we enquiring (as stated in the National Strategic Plan 2005-2025) “Can we invoke the courage and wisdom that inspired and guided our forefathers in order to undertake the most unprecedented and historic transformation in our economic, social and physical landscape since independence in 1966?”

How can we strive for global excellence and still preserve our Barbadian traditions? Next week I shall venture to address this. How can Barbados learn from Singapore’s model of development which was very articulately presented at a meeting at the Economic Development Board during my visit to Singapore two weeks ago. The recent introduction of InvestBarbados, a public sector entity, like the EDB in Singapore, has a key role to play in the context of the sustained economic success of Barbados.

I submit that the key element of success is a heightened spirituality of our people recognising that His truth endures to all generations. The supporting elements are forthright and fearless leadership, enhanced discipline, a land use policy that protects our agricultural production base for food security reasons and a continuous improvement in human capital. Negative influences in our society such as the “minibus” culture, which is quickly destroying the fabric of our youth, must be quickly eradicated.