“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.
In last week’s column, I proposed the challenge “How can we strive for global excellence and still preserve our Barbadian traditions?”
I promised to address how Barbados can learn from Singapore’s model of development which was very articulately presented at a meeting at the Economic Development Board (EDB) during my recent visit to Singapore. I observed that 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.
Interestingly enough, in his column a week ago, David Jessop addressed “the present paucity of new Caribbean thinking”. He reported that in North America and Europe, think tanks, study groups and corporate retreats regularly try to look over the horizon to assess how best to react to trends or developments. Why not in the Caribbean?
If one attempts to do this at a Caricom or Cariforum level, I suggest it will be an exercise in futility. Only grave diggers start from the top. Barbados can lead the way and, when the output from the Think Tank has evolved to a level of maturity, share the ideas through a Caribbean conference in the region.
Elsworth Young, in the chat mail medium last week, observed that “CARICOM is a convenient tool which we conveniently showcase as the saviour of our economies and lambaste as the cause of our self-inflicted problems. The issue of national sensitisation on CARICOM affairs has never been seriously addressed and that’s why we have these emotional outbursts like Dawn Ritch’s that pander to the local palate. She should consider the progress of Singapore in looking at small size”. He was referring to an article published in the Jamaican Gleaner by columnist Dawn Ritch on Sunday March 25, 2007 entitled “Bombastic Trinidadians”.
It should be noted that in 1965 Singapore (an island nation of size similar to that of Barbados and equally endowed with a paucity of natural resources), peacefully seceded from the Malaysian federation and became an Independent Nation. The rest is history – a vision, firm leadership, growth, first world status, a safe environment in which to live and enhanced socio-economic well being.
Maybe Trinidad & Tobago, the OECS (buoyed by the success of the ECCB), Jamaica, the Bahamas and Barbados can independently pursue a Singapore model of development. By the way, I noticed in a March 7, 2007 report that the Trinidad and Tobago Trade and Investment Mission was in the Far East signing a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government, which is expected to lure more tourists to Trinidad and Tobago. My visits to Japan, Dubai and Singapore in the last year have confirmed that, despite the distance, there is a market segment in the Middle East, South East Asia and the Far East, who would respond well to sales activity of the Caribbean tourist product.
This initiative to pursue a Singapore model of development could be leveraged by mobilizing the assets of the struggling mainland territories of Guyana and Belize and the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos islands, through special arrangements with them.
In support of the argument, I now quote my son Bevan in his article “Small Island Makes It Big” on March 21 2007 in the New York Amsterdam News, following our visit to Singapore, a country with a population of 4.35 million and per capita income of about US$27,000.
“According to macroeconomic indicators, the Caribbean island of Barbados was ahead of Singapore in the 1960s, then a sleepy fishing village. But with a transformation over the past several decades, from a labour to a knowledge intensive economy in the 1960s to 2000sâ€¦.Rigid government direction was one of the key ingredients which led to the Singapore’s success, resulting in a society of order, electronic systems, and severe penalties for those who break the lawâ€¦”
“Singapore also credits its success today and tomorrow on a welcoming immigration policy which attracts the best and brightest to contribute to its socio-economic developmentâ€¦While some Caribbean economies have grown through the years, we tend to compare our small gains with those nations that are at the bottom of the barrel without raising the bar and enacting policies that will fuel exponential growthâ€¦”
He continued that some of his cricket enthusiast friends in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, with whom he spoke, intimated that, had they been targeted by a more proactive approach, they would have considered making the trip to the Caribbean for the CWC 2007 competition. “The good news is that after the last delivery is bowled, potential tourists will still be interested in the Caribbean, and it will be the job of our marketers to hit these new international markets for six”.
Next week I shall look at the comparison between Barbados and Singapore from an historical perspective and conclude with potential opportunities and synergies which could accrue from adopting the Singapore model.