“Let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever” – Psalm 40:11
On February 21st in Barbados we shall elect 30 members, primarily from the two major political parties, to the House of Assembly which is the third oldest Parliament in the Commonwealth. The members of the House should work together to govern our country in the public interest.
At present there are 21 members of the Upper House (the Senate), 12 from the Government party, two from the Opposition party and seven Independent Senators appointed by the Head of State, the Governor General. The two houses in this bicameral system are jointly responsible for creating or changing the laws of the country. The Senate is not a rubber stamping body and has been known to send proposed legislation back to the Lower House for modification.
The leader of the party which commands the majority of the seats in the House becomes the Prime Minister of the country and he/she chooses a Cabinet of Ministers from elected members of the House or from the Senate who are assigned portfolios by the Prime Minister with respective responsibilities to manage the affairs of the country.
The pre-election “silly season” is upon us when parties start sparring over everything, in search of votes in advance of the Election Day. Promises are made which are formally presented in separate party manifestos and the voting public makes their choice. That is the political system.
Whether there is a change of the governing political party after the election or not, the country is faced with the same socio-economic challenges as were present going into the election. Currently the economy is stagnant and the new government has to get to work. The manifesto promises are very upbeat but the voter is made to feel that capital resources that the country has at its disposal are limited. It is our mind-set perspective that sometimes leads us astray.
I would like to explode this myth of slender capital resources. There are eight categories of capital which we can draw on namely: (1) Human – knowledge, skills and experience; (2) Intellectual – vision, brainpower, innovation, brands, talent, protocol, software, networks; (3) Social – smart partnerships embodying a shared vision, cultural diversity, a code of ethics, longevity, loyalty, transparency, equity, fair play, trust and values; (4) Cultural – beliefs, behaviours, norms, traditions; (5) Physical – land, buildings, equipment; (6) Natural – ecosystems, energy, minerals, water; (7) Financial – venture capital, equity, grants, loans; (8) Spiritual capital – promotion of positive belief systems such as ambition, self-confidence, good relationships and emotional security and the management of negative emotions induced by anger, fear, worry and guilt.
The challenge is how do we mobilise these capital resources for the benefit of all concerned?
The manpower base in Barbados is powerful with lots of knowledge, skills and experience but there are signs of decay at all educational levels and this must be addressed as we attempt to develop a manpower needs driven educational system.
My experience in enterprise development has revealed that there is no shortage of intellectual capital driven ideas with potential for export i.e. with the “DNA of an Elephant”. We need this form of capital because the market footprint of Barbados is too small on which to rapidly expand the economy.
The strategy for economic growth cannot be done by politicians alone. In the early 1990s, we established the social compact involving public-private alliances and Barbados is now one of the leaders in this philosophy in Latin America and the Caribbean. This compact can be improved upon and the new Barbados Government is well advised not only to take stock of the eight categories of capital at its disposal but also to enhance the social compact optimally and engage it to mobilise all sources of capital for the mutual benefit of all concerned.
Our cultural heritage is rich. The Cabinet has recently approved a Cultural Industries Development Bill with implementation strategies. We must now take action. There is significant physical infrastructural capital and much more in the process of being development. This provides a foundation on which to develop other forms of capital.
Natural ecosystems in Barbados are underexploited; there is now a wave of interest in renewable energy applications such as solar, wind and biomass and great potential for water desalination and sustainable tourism. Contrary to public belief there is money in Barbados. The challenge is access to the money in the private sector. We need money to develop the economy but the Government is in debt so we have to look farther afield. The late Prime Minster David Thompson launched the Barbados Venture Capital Fund in November 2009 where he proposed an incentive, in the form of a guarantee on the capital invested, to the private sector to invest in the Fund which would have been used to fund enterprise development. Unfortunately, even though the private sector was interested, the incentive was not put in place by Government before the Prime Minister died and the proposal died with him. This Fund is paramount since the loan instrument from traditional financial institutions is not appropriate for the establishment of start-up enterprises where the potential for development lies.
The mobilisation of Spiritual capital leaves much to be desired. Too many people are not motivated to adopt a positive approach to life and do not understand the principle that “His steadfast love and faithfulness will keep us safe forever”.
The Barbados Chapter of the Caribbean Institute of Certified Management Consultants (CICMC) is mounting an evening panel discussion with audience participation before Easter 2013. It will be an ideal forum for interested parties to engage in exchanges on strategies for economic growth in Barbados. More anon.