“Be honest in the evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” – Romans 12:3
The Caribbean is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-culinary, multi- genre (musical) and multi-lingual region officially made up of an archipelago of islands and selected mainland emerging territories nested between North and South America, Central America in the West and the Atlantic Ocean in the East, in the Caribbean Basin.
The 17 English heritage administrations in the Caribbean are distributed as follows: North (7); South (7) and West (3) with an estimated population of 6 million, including the mainland territories of Belize and Guyana. The 6 French heritage administrations in the Caribbean are distributed as follows: North (5) and South (1) with an estimated population of 17.2 million, including the mainland territory of French Guiana. The 7 Dutch heritage administrations in the Caribbean are distributed as follows: North (3); South (1) and West (3) with an estimated population of 0.8 million, including the mainland territory of Suriname. The 3 Spanish heritage administrations in the Caribbean are all in the North with an estimated population of 22.5 million, including the US territory of Puerto Rico. There are 33 Caribbean administrations with a total population of 46.5 million, albeit over managed, which is not to be ignored as a geographical market to be explored within the wider Latin American and Caribbean region.
I am writing this column in the wake of a very stimulating experience at the first ever Malaysia/Africa Business Forum (MABF) “Exploring New Dimensions” held on Sat 18 June in Kuala Lumpur which is the fastest growing metropolitan region, in terms of population and economy, in Malaysia, and is the home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the iconic PETRONAS Twin Towers. Malaysia has a population of 28.5 million and a current average GDP growth rate of 5-7 %.
The MABF was juxtaposed with the 9th Langkawi International Dialogue (LID) 2011 (the 20th in the series of Smart Partnership Dialogues) which is being held, for the first time outside of Langkawi, at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia, from 19-21 June 2011. Themed “Enhancing Smart Partnership for Socio-Economic Transformation,” the three-day LID is expected to draw 500 participants both international and local. It was reported that there were 755 persons registered for MABF, 180 foreign delegates (160 Africans) from 27 countries, most of whom were expected to attend LID 2011.
LID is part of the Smart Partnership Dialogue series, which promotes the principles, and practice of the ”Smart Partnership” approach to creative cooperation between Government and other sectors contributing to socio-economic activities. ”Smart Partnership” is an innovative concept that is based on a positive ethos of ”prosper thy neighbour” for ”win-win” situations.
It was reported that Malaysia believed that new and innovative ideas on transformation and socio-economic policies will emerge from the LID 2011 for mutual benefit. In order for LID to be relevant for the new global challenges, LID 2011 will be conducted based on a new modality among others, introduction of Retreat and Plenary sessions for the Heads of State/Government.
Since the first LID in 1995, the Dialogue has become an important platform for a free-flow of ideas and exchange of information among the participating countries.
I attended the first three LIDs in Langkawi in 1995, 1996 and 1997 which were organised by the Malaysia Industry Group for High Technology and the Commonwealth Partnership of Technology Management, strongly supported by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, Prime Minister of Malaysia at the time.
I was Joint Dialogue Convenor for the two Barbados International Dialogues in the series in 1996 and 1999. I also attended Southern African Dialogues (SAID), in the same series in Botswana (1997), Namibia (1998), Zimbabwe (1999), Zambia (2008) and Uganda (2009). It was very gratifying therefore to be present at the advent of the MABF which is the culmination of the Smart Partnership efforts over the years. It was only natural for me to flirt with a vision of the day when there would be the Malaysia/Caribbean Business Forum or, indeed, the Africa/Caribbean Business Forum.
Nations attending LID 2011 can use Malaysia’s transformational leadership initiatives and transformational policies to tailor-make their own policies to suit their domestic needs to tackle head-on global challenges and new realities. Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman said Malaysia stands ready to share its experience in implementing the Government Transformation Programme, Economic Transformation Programme and New Economic Model premised on the inclusiveness of the 1 Malaysia concept.
Smart Partners’ International Global Dialogues are celebrations of progress in the national context, through “Smart Links” and “Smart Values”. They are also festivals of new ideas and approaches based on “Smart Communication” for “Smart Transformation”. In addition, they form milestones for Smart Partners’ commitments for moving forward National Visions through “Smart Delivery”.
At the MABF the audience was treated to a wonderful cameo of visionary ideas by the former Prime Minister of Malaysia Hon. Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Honorary President, Perdana Leadership foundation. He released many pearls of wisdom not the least of which was a challenge to find ways of moving people from one country to another and from one region to another, if we are to benefit from the synergies of interaction between countries. He advocated the use of “low cost” airlines as a viable means to achieve this objective. Stakeholders of the current REDJet deliberations in the Caribbean, please note.