“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” – 1 Peter 5:6-7 

Barbados is at the cross roads.  There are visions of 1991 where foreign reserves reached record low levels.  Thankfully, our foreign reserves are not that critical today, partially boosted by foreign borrowing.  I understand that there are recommendations that the Government should aggressively tax an already small cake. If that happens, the cake will be in danger of becoming smaller. Borrowing and increased taxation are not necessarily sustainable strategies. The only guaranteed sustainable solution is to grow the economy – to increase the size of the cake.  We can only grow the economy one successful enterprise after another. Therefore, let us cut to the chaste and focus on the enterprise.

In 1991, there was talk of the advent of the IMF and devaluation of the Barbados currency. We did not capitulate. We established a Barbados Private Sector Agency, which together with the established Trade Union institutions and the Barbados Government formed a public/private partnership called a Social Compact which established a number of protocols. I had occasion to review the Barbados: public-private partnerships for diversification, innovation and linkages which delineates the performance of the social Compact over the years – http://www.eclac.org/portofspain/noticias/noticias/8/32418/Barbados.Public.PrivatePartnershipsfordiversificationsinnovationandlinkages.exportpromotion.investment.pdf.

This has been instructive.

I have received a “ton” of emails recently with several different visions as to what to do in our present “crisis”.   In my opinion, what needs to be done is to convert these VISIONS into ACTION.  How many of us are actually sweating it out on a daily basis to make something happen.  It is very easy to comment on the keyboard of a laptop or in front of a microphone in a radio or TV studio. Not so easy to convert these VISIONS into ACTION, sustainable action.

The model for economic growth is conceptually very simple – build on what you have and seek new avenues of opportunity to replace what you have lost, one successful sustainable enterprise after another. It is not a question of pontificating and sitting back.  Whether it is an old or new enterprise, it requires determination, innovation, change and persistence.  There are three ingredients necessary to achieve the objective of successful sustainable enterprises, whether old, start-up or emerging.

Firstly – enterprises with the DNA of an elephant. This means that enterprises which have the potential to earn revenue beyond the economic space of 270,000, must emerge. Barbados cannot hope to achieve any significant economic growth rate based on a population size of 270,000 people alone or whatever number the 2010 census reveals.

Secondly – the failure rate of start-up and emerging enterprises, in the first two years of operation, ranges from 60-80% worldwide.  The reason for the failure, apart from “Acts of God”, is weak management of marketing, operations, people and/or money. We must therefore shepherd these enterprises to success.

Thirdly – the lack of timely access to appropriate finance.  Venture capital is needed to complement the offerings from traditional financial institutions.  I have been saying this since 1986.

When I came back to the Caribbean in 1968 after my exposure to higher education regionally and extra-regionally, I practised as a Biometrician in the agriculture sector regionally.  My senior colleagues advised that the problems with which we were faced in the agricultural sector since the Second World War were, for the most part, still present with us at that time. Does it surprise you that there are only minute pockets of positive change in that sector in the Caribbean in the last 42 years?  We need to get out of this rut, not only in the agricultural sector, but also to ensure that growth in other sectors (e.g. the cultural industries sector), which hold some potential for our future growth, is not stymied.

Just in case you think that I am falling into the trap of commenting without a plan of ACTION, think again.

In the last eighteen months we have been able to implement the CBET Shepherding Model www.cbetmodel.org; www.bimventures.com in Barbados with some interesting results. It addresses an innovative mix of (1) DNA of an Elephant projects; (2) Shepherding to improve management efficiency; and (3) Seed and Venture Capital.  We have 7 projects which have been approved for Venture Capital investment; 3 which will be making presentations to the VC board shortly; and 33 waiting in the pipeline for resource allocation, both people and money. This is a partnership between CBET, the Government of Barbados and the private sector.

This project is in its fledgling stages so we cannot yet shout from the roof tops, but early indications are that it has the promise to convert VISION into ACTION and grow the economy of Barbados significantly. Other countries in the Caribbean and beyond, based on the pilot in Barbados, are already planning to adopt a similar model.

We need all the help we can get!  The entrepreneurs are poised to take off; more and more potential shepherds are asking to be registered; what we need now is the financial investment to make it happen.  The CBET Shepherding Model offers an attractive return.

Be guided by the promise: “To be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you”.