“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you” Job 22:21

Last week I promised to continue the focus on Barbados by looking at a comparison between Barbados and Singapore and to propose some ways in which opportunities and synergies could accrue, learning from the Singapore experience.

The National Strategic Plan of Barbados 2005-2025 (Global Excellence, Barbadian Traditions) provides the blueprint for the realization of Barbados’ vision of becoming a fully developed society that is prosperous, socially just and globally competitive by the end of the first quarter of this century.

I take the liberty to interpret the description of a fully developed society, in the holistic sense, to include not only financial and economic prosperity and social justice but also knowledge and understanding of the impact of spiritual, cultural and physical environmental benefits.

As we develop strategies to aspire to the Barbados vision, it would seem sensible to learn from others who have had a similar vision and successfully completed the journey to sustainable success. An example of such a country is Singapore. Like Barbados, Singapore is a small island state, bereft of resources apart from its people. Unlike Barbados in 1960, Singapore was described as a “sleepy fishing village, faced with the threat of communism” whereas Barbados was a buoyant sugar, rum and molasses economy with internal self government.

The following GDP/per capita statistics are worthy of note:

In 1960: Singapore 1.6 million people, GDP/capita US$875; Barbados 231,000 people, GDP/capita US$2,290… Barbados was ahead of Singapore.

In 1970: Singapore 1.9 million people, GDP/capita US$905; Barbados 239,000 people, GDP/capita US$4,282… Barbados was ahead of Singapore.

In 2006: Singapore 4.48 million people, GDP/capita US$30,804, growth rate 8%; Barbados 280,000 people, GDP/capita US$12,000, growth rate 3%.

Singapore has transitioned at a phenomenal rate and is projected to grow by 5% this year, with a strategic population target of 6.5 million people. Barbados has held its course and is projected to grow by 4% this year. What is our strategic population target and whence does it come? The significance of this question is that a country needs people to effect growth. Furthermore, tertiary output per capita (the rate at which persons have access to tertiary education) is highly correlated with GDP/capita. This implies that a country needs not only people but educated people to sustain growth.

Singapore was ahead of Barbados in 1970. Barbados grew at a steady rate; Singapore grew at an exponential rate. Barbados needs to translate its qualitative vision of “becoming a fully developed society by 2025” into a strategic quantitative GDP/capita target to be achieved by 2025. Annual GDP/capita and growth rate targets must be set, and strategies must be established, which, cumulatively, will achieve the strategic objective.

Singapore had a five phase strategy for industrial transformation. Phase 1 – in the 60’s (labour intensive) export led industrialization to create employment. Phase 2 – in the 70’s (Skills intensive) focus on skills development. Phase 3 – in the 80’s (Capital intensive) diverse engineering industries. Phase 4 – in the 90’s (Technology intensive) business centres and Headquaters’ programmes. Phase 5 – in the 2000’s (Knowledge intensive) globalization, rapid technology advances, knowledge-driven activities, new emerging industries and intellectual property.

The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) www.sedb.com promotes The Singapore Advantage – Connectivity, Openness, Reliability and Enterprise (C+O+R+E).

Connectivity is manifested by (1) Transport – the world’s busiest container port – more than 4,000 flights per week to 180 cities. (2) Market – free trade agreements with 60% of the world GDP – 54 double taxation agreements – 33 investment guarantee agreements. (3) Infocomm – international connectivity of 27.6 terabits per second – direct Internet links to more than 20 countries. (4) World’s most globalised nation ahead of Ireland and Switzerland (2005).

Openness in the context of (1) A welcome to foreigners – 1 in 4 is a foreigner. (2) Asia’s best place to live – ahead of Tokyo and Hong Kong. (3) Cosmopolitan – English speaking. (4) Institutes of higher learning – 20% of intake are foreign students).

Reliability through successful branding as follows: (1) Low investment risk – only country in Asia with top credit rating (Standard and Poor’s – 2005). (2) “Made in Singapore” quality. (3) Credibility – Asia’s top country in corporate governance (2005). (4) “Trust in Singapore” – least corruption in Asia.

Enterprise as is depicted by: (1) 7,000 Multi-National Corporations – 4,000 company Head Quarters – thousands of start-ups. (2) Top in Asia for ease of doing business (2005). (3) Enterprising workforce – high productivity. (4) Number 1 workforce for 25 years running, ahead of USA and Taiwan (2005).

The Singapore Economic Development Board is the lead investment promotion agency responsible for formulating and implementing economic and industrial strategies for Singapore. Maybe the newly formed Barbados International Business Promotion Corporation, or InvestBarbados, can play a similar role and secure a future for Barbados.

I submit that Barbados can learn quite a bit from the Singapore Model and maybe the first step would be a Government to Government visit from Barbados to Singapore, under the leadership of InvestBarbados. In developing the strategies to achieve the objectives of the National Strategic Plan, there will have to be a certain spiritual attitude and determination, mind-set change, a skill-set and cross-cultural communication change, the last being of utmost importance if we are to succeed in this globalised world.