“Revive me according to your word” – Psalm 119:25
The CIA World Factbook reports at February 21, 2013 as follows: “Barbados is the wealthiest and most developed country in the Eastern Caribbean and enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in Latin America…in recent years the economy has diversified into light industry and tourism with about four-fifths of GDP and of exports being attributed to services. Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners… and thrive from having and a relatively highly educated workforce. Barbados’ tourism, financial services, and construction industries have been hard hit since the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008, which caused the economy to contract 4% in 2009 and grow below 1% annually since 2010…”
“Trinidad and Tobago has earned a reputation as an excellent investment site for international businesses and has one of the highest growth rates and per capita incomes in Latin America. Economic growth between 2000 and 2007 averaged slightly over 8%, significantly above the regional average of about 3.7% for that same period; however, GDP has slowed down since then and contracted during 2009-2011 due to depressed natural gas prices and changing markets. Growth had been fuelled by investments in liquefied natural gas, petrochemicals, and steel. Additional petrochemical, aluminum, and plastics projects are in various stages of planning. Trinidad and Tobago is the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas…but it also supplies manufactured goods, notably food products and beverages, as well as cement to the Caribbean region. Oil and gas account for about 40% of GDP and 80% of exports, but only 5% of employment. The country is also a regional financial centre, and tourism is a growing sector, although it is not as important domestically as it is to many other Caribbean islands…”
These reports highlight the importance of tourism to Barbados; extractive industries to Trinidad and Tobago; and financial services to both. Whereas these sectors have been the recent mainstay of the respective economies, there are other sectors which need attention: agriculture and agri-business, at least for food security; renewable energy, at least for energy security; health and wellness, at least for human health security; and creative industries, consulting, E-Commerce, ICT and selected manufacturing in terms of their potential to stabilise and enhance growth rates.
Even though there are many diverse initiatives in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados in terms of enterprise development, there needs to be a rationalisation of these initiatives in the Caribbean and a coordinated focus to take advantage of the opportunity for economic growth which can be occasioned by sustainable enterprise development. When there is sustainable development the country wins; when the country wins; we all win! There are three challenges to enterprise development: (1) poor selection of enterprises and promoters of enterprises; (2) high failure rate of start-ups, spin-outs and scale-ups; and (3) lack of timely access to appropriate finance. These are all addressed by the CBET Shepherding Model™. The major challenge to the implementation of this Model is the timely access to appropriate finance. Benevolent venture capital funds must be established as a matter of urgency; loan financing is not the answer.
In addition, we need to protect ourselves throughout the region and beyond against the growing global threat of cybercrime which can destroy the positive impact of growth overnight. The Barbados Minister of Finance himself was reported to have said on Nov 28, 2012 that “It may not be widely known but I am going to say it here and hopefully the word will get out, the Value Added Tax online system was hacked into by a predator, who in doing so brought along a virus with him or her and caused the entire online VAT system to crash”. The hacking of the Barbados VAT system should serve as yet another trigger for the Barbados government to ensure that our national cyber security house is in order.
In the same way that we, as human beings, need to recharge our energy and our spirit and provide a reprieve from life’s daily challenges so too do our policy makers need to recharge their energy and their spirit and provide a reprieve from the daily challenges of growing the portfolios with which they have been honoured to lead.
Last week the Barbados Minister of Tourism announced a ten-point plan for Barbados’ tourism sector: (1) energy efficiency and hotel refurbishment fund; (2) renewable energy bill; (3) electricity rebate for a credible energy efficiency plan and/or investment in energy from renewable sources: (4) a water bill rebate for a credible water management programme; (5) programme to increase the number of Green Globe Certified hotels and implement an international marketing strategy promoting Barbados as a “Sustainable Green” and “Clean Energy” destination; (6) strengthening of “events-based Tourism”; (7) a credit voucher up to a specified amount in Barbados equivalent to the APD paid by British tourists; (8) villa type accommodation to be marketed as part of the room stock available in Barbados; (9) rebranding the Hastings to St Lawrence Gap strip as a weekend 24 hour indigenous arts and craft and cultural performers market; and (10) construction of a new hotel plant in Barbados and the re-building and re-opening of a number of derelict properties.
While all these initiatives are no doubt commendable, economic growth in the tourism sector is only possible from the cumulative effect of one successful enterprise after another. A successful enterprise will depend on increased tourist spend. Increase tourist spend depends on successful marketing. Where is the innovative marketing strategy? We need to recharge it.