“The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” – Lamentations 3:25-27
The global financial crisis brought with it profits of doom and gloom. The crisis has been used as an excuse for non-performance and declining fortunes. Whereas I am not denying that a global financial crisis can have a deleterious impact on a country like Barbados, with an open economy, I do not think that we should lose sight of the “silver linings” of opportunity which are extant in our world.
If the average rate of growth in a country is low for any given period of time, it does not necessarily mean that every business in the country is suffering from a paucity of profits or indeed that every individual in the country has low disposable income. What it does mean is that on average, over the entire population, the collective rate of growth is low. There will be some who are blessed with greater resources than the average and those who are less fortunate. The reports, however, lend us to believe that we are all destined to suffer the average trend.
In statistical terms, the average is a primary measure and the spread is a secondary measure. The spread however is defined by the positive and negative departures from the average. If the spread is very small then it means that the average is representative of the characteristic being measured. If the spread is large, however, then there is a major difference, positive or negative, in the way in which the financial crisis, say, impacts those which are further away from the average than those which are nearer to the average.
What we need to do is to examine how those above average were able to survive and learn from them. I think that therein lies the opportunity to combat the impact of a financial crisis. To those below average, they must be strengthened by the message from the Book of Lamentations that: “It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. God proves to be good to those of us who passionately seek and diligently wait; It’s a good thing to quietly hope for help from God”.
Let us take for example the tourism sector which is certainly the major economic sector in Barbados and for at least 33 countries in the Caribbean. The Barbados Tourism Authority (successor organisation to the Barbados Tourist Board) which has been marketing tourism for the last 50 years, still myopically focuses on the Eastern seaboard of North America, Great Britain and select European markets. What about the rest of the world?
I remember raising this matter from the floor at a National Public/Private Consultation in Barbados about a year ago. My question was elegantly supported by Professor Avinash Persaud who argued that 50 years ago the centre of gravity of wealth in the world was indeed focused on the West but since then it has shifted to the East but our tourism marketing strategies have not been diversified with the flow thus mitigating our strength to manage the onset of a crisis. If we are not aggressively taking advantage of opportunities in Middle Eastern or Eastern countries, especially in a time of crisis, then we only have ourselves to blame.
Also, about a year ago, I was an observer at a Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ meeting in St. Lucia where I happened to sit next to the Director of Finance and Planning for India at lunch one day. What I recall most about that conversation is his revelation that of the one billion people in India, 350 million people have enough disposable income and interest in diversifying their tourism experience to travel anywhere in the world . I was already aware that over 400 million people in India are below the poverty line. This latter statistic will tend to pull down the average per capita income in the country as a whole, but the former statistic would suggest that there is a significant group on which tourism marketers can focus in order to diversify their tourism arrivals and increase the spend.
My suggestion is that, in order to experience sustainable tourism growth, we must “move our marketing strategies to the East” and not plough more and more resources into Western markets which are more severely hit by recession and from where the centre of gravity of global wealth has long moved to the East. Remember that “Hope Springs Eternal in the Human Breast”.
In entrepreneurial development across many productive sectors, the expected failure rate of start-up businesses is 80% to 90% in the first two years of operation. This number is repeated time and time again as if it were an inevitable phenomenon. My hypothesis is that if we recognise the reason why these businesses fail is due to weak management of business systems such as marketing, operations, human resources and finance and introduce the CBET Shepherding ModelTM, we would probably experience a dramatic turnaround so that the business failure rate in the first two years of operation would only be 10 to 20%. This is a potential factor of four in economic growth irrespective of threats of financial crises or other manifestations of a paradigm shift.