“It is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God” – (Ecclesiastes 5:19)
Amidst the seas of economic turmoil there is a ray of hope. The seeds of entrepreneurship have taken root and must now be nourished to fruition. The nutriment from these fruit will be the fuel to drive economic recovery.
We cannot get growth without risk. The visionary and the brave have stuck their necks out in a socio-economic mine field and the challenge of sustainable success is directly proportional to the effort spent in expertly managing the process.
In April this year, I had the opportunity to make a presentation at an annual international conference on Statistics, Science and Public Policy at Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex, England. This year’s theme was on “Risks, Rights and Regulations” and the topic of my presentation was “Advice to Government and Private Enterprise – The Barbados Experience”. I think that the major surprise to the audience was the realisation that there was no regional Caribbean Government and that there was such difficulty in getting acceptable sustainable solutions for a group of 6 to 7 million people.
I shared with the audience a number of tenets on which my own philosophies are based: (1) Barbados is a leader in public/private partnerships in Latin America and the Caribbean. In this context, the role of the private sector should be to “Do Business”, the role of Government should be to set policy and provide a user-friendly enabling environment, and the role of the Trade Union, in my opinion, should be to induce harmony between employers and employees in the interest of increasing labour productivity for fair compensation; (2) economic growth can only take place one successful enterprise after the other and, hence, the focus should be on enterprise development; (3) examples of exponential growth, wherever it was taking place in the world, was fuelled by a venture capital thrust; (4) venture capitalists in the US preferred to invest in enterprises where the entrepreneur had failed on one or more occasion on the assumption that the entrepreneur would have learned from his failure and would be unlikely to repeat those mistakes again; (5) the venture capital investor, even though not requiring hard collateral as in the case of a traditional commercial bank in response to a request for a loan from the enterprise, required that good management should be in place and that management was, indeed, the collateral requirement.
I went on to point out that: (6) in 1991, Barbados’ economy was under significant stress in the sense that the quantum of foreign exchange reserves was only sufficient to buy one week’s imports for the country. In small developing states, in particular, the level of foreign reserves is a very important and crucial statistic. Today, the level of foreign reserves is that it can support the purchase of several months’ imports;
(7) The response to this crisis was for the private sector, the Government and the Trade Union Congress to get together and form a social compact to advise the Prime Minister of the country as to the best way forward; (8) this resulted in a number of protocols leading up to Protocol No. 6 which was signed this year and it is my belief that the social compact has been responsible for the recovery of Barbados over the last 20 years and the economy, notwithstanding the recent blip incurred by the world recession, is now relatively stable and poised for growth in the future; (9) I endorse and support the Smart Partnership philosophy based on ten facets (A Shared Vision; Cultural Diversity; A Code of Ethics; Longevity; Networking; Transparency; Equity; Fair Play; Trust; and Values; (10) There was a lot that could be learned from Singapore where in 1959, mainstream Singapore (even though there was a naval base stationed there) was described as a sleepy fishing village with a threat of communism. At that time, Barbados already had a deep water harbour and up to 1970, based on any combination of macro-economic statistics, Barbados was ahead of Singapore, but today Singapore’s GDP per capita is more than twice that of Barbados.
Then I went on to describe my involvement in the entrepreneurship thrust which began in earnest in 1998 when the Caribbean Development Bank invited me to become a Consultant with the specific mandate to create an innovative approach to re-engineering the economies in the Caribbean, given that the traditional industries, sugar cane and bananas, were in their sunset phase. Out of this the CBET Shepherding Model™ evolved as “A Caribbean Catalyst Converting Concepts into Commercial Realities”.
Then, over the last three years there was the pilot project in Barbados which has been instructive in indentifying issues associated with: the enterprise and the entrepreneur; the shepherding process; and the types and sources of funding. These are being delineated for inclusion in a franchise operational system.
Then in 2010, a complementary activity arose. A group of volunteers established the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) with the vision to make Barbados “The #1 Entrepreneurial Hub In The World by 2020”. It has five support pillars each headed by a Pillar Champion in the areas: Government Policy; Business Facilitation; Education; Mentoring; and Finance – www.barbadosentrepreneurshipfoundation.org.
The BEF is expecting a large turnout of entrepreneurs and small business owners for its second 2011 Entrepreneurs’ SUMMIT slated for November 17-18 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Centre.