“…And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm” – Matthew 8:25-26

The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation was originally conceived by the E-Team, a group of holistically, well intentioned, international private sector volunteers. The focus was to effect sustainable change in the economic growth rate in the Barbados economy and then, by example, to the rest of the Caribbean and the world. The BEF is now incorporated and the profile of the 12 members of its Board of Directors is public/private sector, local/international and male/female.

The BEF Vision, “Barbados – The #1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020”, will be manifested by doubling the GDP per capita by 2020.  This is a tall order but if we include in the mix of contributors, internationally operating companies with their global headquarters in Barbados, all of a sudden it does not appear to be a daunting task after all.  How do we attract these international companies? We must create a business and social environment in Barbados which is second to none and then market aggressively to lure these businesses to our shores.

As an example, the most visible goal which BEF has embarked upon to date is to make Barbados the first country in the world to provide 100% free Wi-Fi access to all of its citizens.  This is gaining major traction with the help of several Smart Stakeholders. The Wi-Fi project, branded “11:11:11ON”, is designed to position Barbados as a world leader in the global marketplace. It is widely believed that Information Technology capability and capacity is the single most important transformational force that a country can harness.

It is par for the course that whenever there is a new perspective on life, there are many armchair critics who muster little packets of energy and position themselves to take a barrage of pot shots at the objectives of the vision, probably because it has never been done before.  They have endless reasons why it would not work.

My advice to them stems from a recent Brian Griffith “Jewel for Today” where he quoted Maya Angelou as follows: “If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”  My advice, O ye of little faith, is to join the momentum of the positive BEF Tsunami (unless of course you have something better to offer); hold hands and use your energy usefully and collectively to make a difference instead of complaining through destructive criticism.

A recent attack on the BEF suggested that the organisation is a sinister front to bring in international resources to take jobs that are rightfully those of Bajans. I had occasion last week to respond to this allegation as follows: “I think that we should take every opportunity, on a continuing basis to make it clear that one of BEF’s objectives is the socio-economic growth of Barbados.  We can neither grow Barbados socio-economically on the Barbados market footprint alone nor on the resident Barbados human resource base alone.  We have to export and import substitute and bring in expertise to complement and train Barbadians so that Barbadians at home and abroad are competent to take on the jobs in an expanded economy.

The myth of “taking” Barbadians’ jobs arises from segmented myopic thinking of those who are stuck in a rut or do not take the time to learn from the history of successful nations which themselves have benefitted from the immigration of human resources (at all levels) from other countries (including Barbados). This myth must be exploded.”

Peter Boos, BEF Chairman, made two other observations last week. The one in response to a caller who said “we are tired of serving; we want to own”.  Mr. Boos advised that as an entrepreneur we can both provide a service and own the business.  The other is that people still are focussed on Barbados as the market. They do not yet imagine a bigger market opportunity. For example, the legal fraternity in Barbados is already of the order of 800 members with many more in the pipeline, we must therefore be creative and look to global markets to engage their skills and education. Peter Boos recalled the comments made by the late Prime Minister David Thompson in February 2010 that our vision would require a huge culture change.

Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Hon. Chris Sinckler, will deliver the 2011 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals on Tuesday 16 August 2011 at 4 p.m. in the Lower House of Parliament. Immediately following that will be Alan Smith’s presentation on “Opportunities for Barbadian Entrepreneurship in the Global Marketplace’’ at the BEF’s 9th monthly Forum to be held at The Plantation Garden Theatre from 6-8pm.

Mr Smith is currently the Global Head of Risk Strategy and Chief of Staff within the Global Risk function at HSBC Holdings, one of the world’s largest financial services organisations.  He started his working career with PwC (Coopers and Lybrand) in Barbados.

The main theme for the night will cover topics relating to; the forces that are shaping the global marketplace, Global opportunities for Barbadian entrepreneurs, Opportunities in emerging markets and how Barbadian entrepreneurs can take advantage of them and Ideas for raising finance. This will present the opportunity for Barbadian entrepreneurs to access a wealth of knowledge relating to these very pertinent topics.