“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” – Joshua 1:8
As small island developing states face the challenges which have been predicted from the financial fallout which has triggered a global financial crisis, it is important that we address these challenges with a non-traditional mind-set. We in Barbados need to protect the standard of living and quality of life which we have striven so hard to achieve. This may be measured by indices of socio-economic well-being such as the human development index and GDP per capita. The approaches to this challenge may be many and varied ranging from a conservative mind-set which confines us to traditional thought patterns and the visionary mind-set which allows us to be creative and permits innovative solutions to emerge.
A conservative mind-set, in my opinion, may even exacerbate the problem since the traditional solutions may not be appropriate in the new environment. A visionary mind-set allows us to think laterally. I am most comfortable at this end of the problem-solving spectrum.
If a country is to advance towards a goal of sustainable success, especially in the face of a changing environment, it must focus on the achievement of one successful economic enterprise after another, and one successful social programme after another. I will place emphasis on the successful economic programmes. I dare say that that the principles of the argument could also extend to the social programmes.
I am blessed in the business consulting profession to interact on a daily basis with entrepreneurs whom I attempt to shepherd along their path to sustainable business success. I often say to them that my focus is to help them to help Barbados to grow and not to help their businesses in isolation. What I mean by this is that my focus is to foster their development to the extent that they exploit potential not only in the local market, but also in the regional market and in the global market, where possible. In other words: “How can they grow to earn foreign exchange for Barbados”.
My experience is that there are many businesses which have the potential for expansion into the global market but the development of that potential is stymied by the conservative mind-set not only of the entrepreneur, but in the enabling environment which is provided by Government. My mission is, therefore, to unleash the visionary potential in the minds of these entrepreneurs and bureaucrats, so that they can embrace the rainbow at the end of which lies the proverbial “pot of gold”.
My further experience is that, if one nurtures the mind and engages in positive thinking, the world can become our oyster. It has nothing to do with the size of the country where one is resident or its natural resources. It has everything to do with the visionary mind-set of the entrepreneurs and the shepherds who guide them.
We mentioned the enabling environment and this is very important in the context of public and private partnership where the private sector does the business and the public sector provides regulatory and service functions. If we have a dynamic private sector, this is not enough, it must be complemented by a public sector which is responsive to the needs of the private sector. That is not always the case.
For example, I have seen situations where an entrepreneur applied for sub-division of a non-fertile rock outcropped piece of land which was part of a fertile agricultural holding. The non-fertile land was to be used for an export industry which would employ more than 50 people and, of course, earn foreign exchange for Barbados. The story goes that the public sector bureaucrats recommended that the request be turned down ostensibly because the entrepreneur “had enough already”. The bureaucrats totally missed the point that this proposed enterprise would be earning foreign exchange and creating jobs for Barbados, even though it would also contribute to the increase in wealth of the individual. If the focus of the bureaucrat was Barbados and not the individual, then maybe the decision may have been different.
In the successful Republic of Ireland I observe that the Permanent Secretaries in the public service are at least as dynamic as the Captains of Industry, insofar as the development of Ireland is concerned, resulting in phenomenal rates of growth.
Another example here in Barbados is the inordinate delay in processing applications for finance, in particular. The delays sometimes result in the demise in the business that otherwise has significant potential. The excuse-protection of the ‘anatomy’.
Then, of course, there is the work permit issue where firms apply for work permits to get resources into this country at levels of expertise which would help to grow Barbados. But yet, a myopic syndrome kicks in and there are inordinate delays in the approval process. We must take the Right action: for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. If Barbados succeeds, we all win!