“And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” – Matthew 10: 30-31

The challenge that we have throughout the world is that of creating a strategy for sustainable economic growth.  This is achieved through people and we need to take comfort in the belief that God values each of us so much that He watches over us no matter where we are or what we are doing. This is truly wonderful.  Let us therefore, wherever we are, diligently set about doing something useful that is part of the system which stimulates economic growth.

Malaysia’s visionary leadership actually established Malaysia Inc. as their model for sustainable success. In other words, they treated the country as a private sector corporation, introduced a private sector management style, embodying good corporate governance; marketing, as if people really mattered; production; and productivity which was based on people development, the use of technology and optimum process flow; efficient human resource management; and, of course, expert capital development through the taxation, borrowing and foreign direct investment mechanisms.  The rest is history.

My interpretation of the existing economic situation in Barbados, for example, based on what is available for public consumption, is approaching a climate of inertia. The traditional drivers of the economy (tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, financial services) need a boost of vision and energetic action.

Tourism market diversification is an answer but progress is too slow, why?  Is the right combination of resources in place?

We know that sugar as a commodity is a sunset industry, but that does not mean that the sugar cane industry should be similarly categorised. As a matter of fact, there are options for development of the sugar cane industry that are not being pursued – lack of vision. Is any body willing to argue that this is not the case?

The greatest travesty perpetuated by one administration after another is the failure to convert the vast potential of the “family silver”, the West Indian Sea Island Cotton (WISICA) industry and its value added and fashion design linkage potential, into commercial reality as a major industry with markets throughout the world.

The recent annual Barbados Manufacturer’s Exhibition (BMEX) has certainly showcased some of the indigenous talent waiting to be commercially exploited.  There is a large number of Government support service organisations in Barbados which are designed to help these entrepreneurs.  Maybe it is time to think about the rationalisation of these services for maximum impact from a national perspective. Little accountability is practised.

The Financial services sector has made a large contribution towards the sustainability of the economy and from what I understand the Barbados International Business Association is redoubling its effort to ensue that this continues.

There are sunrise industry opportunities such as Business Development Services, Creative Industries (e.g. Film, Music, Drama, Art, Fashion and Graphic design),

Education services, ICT, Renewable Energy and Health & Wellness.  Construction is needed in support of all of the above industries and for the housing market.

Many of these sunrise industries with “export” potential are start-up industries, or at best emerging enterprises, and need special services particularly, management and venture capital, as are offered through the concept of the CBET Shepherding Model.  In this model, Shepherding is designed to mitigate the risk of business failure and an innovative and benevolent Venture Capital offering addresses the mantra heard from traditional financial institutions “we do not fund start-ups”.  The Shepherding Model is designed to stimulate sustainability.

There are therefore many options in the context of growth of the Barbados economy.  Work on enhancing the output of the existing drivers in the economy i.e. Tourism market expansion; diversification of the sugar cane industry; value added development of  the WISICA industry; the manufacturing industry with potential for import substitution and exports; financial services expansion; construction in support of general economic expansion; and aggressive pursuit of the sunrise industries.

Remember we must structure the economy according to an economic gearing system where the major drivers of the economy provide markets for the SME sector. Once the wheels of the drivers gain momentum then we shall see phenomenal growth in the sustainable energy generated at the level of the smaller wheels of the gearing system.

This large SME activity is an interesting phenomenon and it is often said that the SME sector “drives the economy”.  In fact, the larger wheels which represent tourism, financial services and some agriculture, say, drive the economy and without that initiative there would be no market for the SMEs.

There is one other major opportunity and that is to interest companies that operate in many international jurisdictions to establish their global headquarters in Barbados. This means that the global gross revenue of the company boosts the Barbados GDP immediately which will significantly increase the chances of achievement of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation’s goal of doubling the GDP of Barbados by 2020.  McKinney Rogers, CEO Damian McKinney, has operations in the USA, UK, Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is an example of an international company which has its global headquarters in Barbados. This company from all reports enjoys the wonderful ambiance of Barbados and any deficiency in service is not great enough to question the decision to relocate here.

Entrepreneurs and others, please plan to attend what should be an interesting interactive dialogue session at the BEF’s monthly Forum entitled “Harnessing the Power of Mentorship” on Thursday 28 July 2011 at 6pm at the Plantation Garden Theatre.