“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” – Matthew 10:29-31

I have witnessed a number of visions of excellence over the last fortnight including: the 2010 Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards; the District Governor Elect’s vision for the Rotary Caribbean District 7030;  the E-Team’s entrepreneurial vision; the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s vision for the Revitalisation of Bridgetown; the April to May 2010 edition of “The New Europe” magazine www.theneweurope.co.uk; and an online publication www.businessbarbados.com.

Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan in his praises of the high quality of leadership provided by Barbados, both regionally and internationally, and the enviable standard of life in Barbados said words to the effect that Barbados was a country punching above its own weight. This does not mean we have arrived or must rest on our laurels.

The vision contained in the National Strategic Plan for Barbados 2025 is a fully developed society that is prosperous, socially just and globally competitive. That plan was tabled in 2005. What progress has been made over the last five years?  My belief is that even though we may promote visions of excellence over a 20 year period, we should take stock every five years and have a rolling twenty year vision which takes into account the changing environment in the last five years. For example, from 2005 to 2010 we experienced the “3-F” syndrome where we were hit by Fuel, Food and Financial crises of tsunami proportions.  In order to stem the tide, we have had to draw on the “3-E” solution mix driven by Energy, Environment and Entrepreneurship. We need to build on the concept of Centres of Excellence as we convert our Vision into Action!

The successful sustainable development of a country depends on its ability to utilise its resources (physical, spiritual, financial, human, intellectual, social, cultural and natural) in the context of Centres of Excellence.

Dr E.F Schumacher, author of the book ”Small is beautiful – Economics as if People really Mattered”,  stated many years ago, that the optimal size of an administrative unit in the context of the governance of a country is 250,000 people, approximately the population of Barbados.  We are the leaders in the Caribbean and Latin America in public/private partnerships, we need to expand this into a Centre of Excellence (1).

Barbados has developed a brand internationally, primarily as a tourism destination and it is natural that Centres of Excellence should be built around this tourism node: duty free products (2); conservation of the environment leading to “ecomagination” and ecotourism(3); health tourism (4); and sports tourism (5).

In terms of the use of our natural resources we are an island but yet we are ranked among the driest countries in the world.  We therefore need to develop a water desalination Centre of Excellence (6). It has been reported that if one could collect the level of insolation incident on Barbados in one day, and convert it into electrical energy, this would meet the energy needs of Barbados for one year. Barbados is blessed also with a constant wind regime where efficient conversion of wind energy to electricity would also make a contribution to the energy needs. We therefore need a Renewable Energy Centre of Excellence (7) to build on what we have already done in solar water heating.

In the area of finance in support of enterprise development, there is the need for a Venture Capital Centre of Excellence (8) to complement the services which are provided by traditional financial institutions.  Hopefully, the recently launched Barbados Quick Response Seed and Venture Capital Fund will form a solid nucleus.

Economic growth can only take place – one successful business enterprise after another, hence there is need for sustainable enterprise development. Hopefully, the CBET Shepherding Model, which recognises that the advent of shepherding in enterprise development mitigates the risk of business failure, is an initiative which would be at the vanguard of an Enterprise Development Centre of Excellence (9).

Barbados helped to build wealth for its colonial master by producing sugar.  At that time, the sugar cane plant covered no less than 65% of the island’s land mass. There needs to be a Centre of Excellence (10) in modern agriculture which mobilises the approximately 30,000 acres of arable land which remain to produce food for local consumption (including import substitution) and exotic fresh and processed products for global markets. We need a Centre of Excellence (11) for the sunrise industries, e.g. the cultural industries (fashion, film, music and art), which are based on the innate talent of the Barbadian and will drive the future economy of Barbados.

Lastly, but by no means least, we need a Centre of Excellence (12) for Education to build on our solid foundation and embrace innovative educational systems driven by new technologies.  We must pay immediate attention to the development of these 12 Centres of Excellence.

In this context, we must examine our self worth, as has been stated “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! You’re worth more than a million canaries”.