“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.  For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.”  Proverbs 23:17-18

I selected the Verse of the Day from www.bible.com, reflected on my experiences over the last week and began to seek divine inspiration as how the twain shall meet. Ideas for this week’s column emerged and I entitled it “What is our Destiny”?

I refer to the Destiny of the Caribbean.  Why do we keep harping, in mendicant tone, on the paucity of our resources? Why do we keep rueing the decline of the sugar and fresh banana industries, while doing absolutely nothing about diversification of the uses of the sugar cane and banana plants?  Why have we squandered the opportunties for adding value to the “family silver”, the West Indies Sea Island Cotton industry?

As was stated by Frances-Anne Solomon in the introduction to the Bimventures shepherded business plan for Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution Inc., there is a growing demand and interest, regionally and internationally, in Caribbean content that reflects an informed view of the Caribbean as “a microcosm of a genuine multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-talented society”.   The Education sector is a key market, as Film is a great tool for education. There is also a growing demand in the Diaspora for a distribution entity that will service the Audio-Visual desires of Caribbean people abroad for information and entertainment from their homeland.

Sanna Allsopp, in a Bimventures shepherded business plan for studiocaribe.tv (SCTV), stated that SCTV will handle exclusively environmentally and socially conscious Caribbean-themed material offering a variety of content in different genres/formats from a range of producers from all over the Caribbean and its Diaspora and using the latest equipment, technology and distribution channels to boot.

What an amalgam of cultural resources!  What upside potential for the sustainable development of the Caribbean!  What are we doing about realising this upside potential?

Before we get too excited, let us remember that we also have to manage the downside risks, in order to achieve any reasonable measure of sustainable development.

Damian Mc Kinney is CEO of McKinney Rogers, a global business execution consultancy, based in Barbados. Damian is a member of the E-team, a small group of entrepreneurs based in Barbados and the UK, who have a vision for Barbados which is inspirational, challenging, realistic and measureable. At last Tuesday’s Barbados International Business Association’s lunch, Damian presented, with aplomb, the subject “Barbados: The #1 Entrepreneurial Hub of the World by 2020” which is the vision of the E-Team.  The E-Team recognises that economic growth can only take place one successful enterprise after another and hence the focus must be on the entrepreneur. The E-Team will seek to support critical foundations of developing businesses and as a result will focus upon “Growing Sustainable Entrepreneurship” via the key foundation pillars of: Finance, Government Policy, Education and Skills, Mentorship and Business Facilitation.  These foundation pillars are the downside risks. A weak foundation will frustrate any attempt to become the Entrepreneurial Hub of the World by 2020.

As one of the persons at my table said after perusing the handout which Damian distributed before the presentation –“Looks like a good idea, but I wonder how the E-team will strengthen the human resource weakness, in particular, which exists in Barbados”.  I grew up hearing the mantra that Barbados has 98% literacy which would suggest that our human resource would not be a constraint to development. The person at my table is obviously not convinced of this, nor am I.

In order to substantiate these beliefs, I later researched the concern and found a UNICEF Terms of Reference for a Consultant to Provide the Technical Assistance to Conduct a Survey of Learning Disabilities in Primary Schools in Barbados dated May 2010.  The Background read “…Qualitative reports from the Education landscape in Barbados indicate that a “high” number of young boys and girls are transitioning from Primary school to Secondary school with limited foundational skills in literacy, numeric competency and problem solving – skills which are necessary to access and manipulate increasingly complex information.

Reports from the field suggest that: (1) the population of boys and girls who are exhibiting symptoms of a learning disability and are in need of special educational provision is increasing daily; (2) the facilities provided currently in schools are inefficient to meet the diverse needs of boys and girls with learning disabilities; (3) in some schools a significant number of the student population demonstrate major challenges with reading and comprehension and have relatively-low levels of understanding and ability to share ideas, reason or explain a concept; (4) the population of boys who are experiencing difficulties with numeric skills, reading, comprehension and writing is higher than girls; and (5) many boys and girls have difficulty in expressing themselves fluently in the standardized form of the English language.

It is only a matter of time before the magnitude of the iceberg will be revealed and we shall be faced with “Titanic” losses.  The extent to which we successfully manage this and the other downside risks associated with weak finance, government policy, mentorship and business facilitation, will determine our destiny.

Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels; soak yourself in the Fear-of-God— That’s where your future lies.  Then you won’t be left with an armload of nothing.