“For God all things are possible” – Matthew 19:26

Last week the focus in this column was on the potential for the youth. They were encouraged to turn their ideas and innovations into sustainable commercial realities. They were advised that even if a situation may seem impossible or a problem may appear to be unsolvable, with God the impossible becomes possible.

Here is a quote from one of Dr Deepak Chopra’s letters entitled Seduction of Your Spirit which I think is worthy of some reflection: “At the moment of your birth, you are pure, perfect, whole, enlightened . . . From that moment on, however, you start to forget your spiritual nature. Throughout your life, you accumulate layers of social conditioning, physical and emotional experiences, relationships, and the impressions of everything you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. These layers can mask your true essence – which is divine stillness and silence. This realm of stillness and silence is infinite. It is pure consciousness pregnant with possibilities. It exists within you and outside of you. It exists in every breath you take and in the space between every thought. Each time you access this realm of pure potentiality and tap into its flow – even for a few seconds – you experience a small transformation. You shift from a reflexive state of reactivity into a higher state of consciousness known as restful awareness”.

Whether inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs are involved in start-up, spin-out or scale-up enterprises, the major inhibitors to successful enterprise development and hence sustainable economic growth are (1) a quick response source of financial investment and (2) the shepherding process which mitigates the risk of business failure and protects the financial investment. In my experience in Barbados and Trinidad, in particular, shepherds and business advisors (essential for the shepherding process) may be sourced from experienced business practitioners and management consultants and trained in the process of shepherding. Not so with financial investment, it is a near impossibility for the average innovative and potentially viable enterprise to have access to a source of investment funding to which the enterprise can make a pitch.

For the last 15 years I have been dealing with potentially viable enterprises which have not had a readily available source of funds to which to make their pitch. The problem is not funds availability it is access to the funds that are available. The only way we can address this is to take an innovative approach as was done by the late Prime Minister David Thompson in 2009 when he promised an incentive to the private sector to invest in a venture capital company to which the frustrated entrepreneurs representing the enterprise can make a pitch for equity financing in exchange for an equity stake in the enterprise. The immediate benefit of this would be to allow these enterprises to see the light of day and then to have them shepherded to success. We would then be on the journey to sustainable economic growth.

In Barbados it would appear that the finance policy direction is to support the 50 year old tourist industry which, given that it is a big contributor to stabilising the foreign reserves, is an obvious direction in which to seek further growth in the economy. Indeed, it was reported recently in the press that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart wants commercial banks to give more support to the hotel sector. It was reported that he said that it did not make sense for commercial banks to elect to “lend people money to buy motor cars” rather than to “invest in a sector that leads the Barbados economy”.

I would certainly agree that if we could expand the tourism industry and boost the foreign reserves it would be a boon to the economy. If investment finance could be procured from commercial banks and other sources, then its uses in the tourism sector are at least six-fold: (1) execute innovative marketing plans; (2) upgrade the standard of the existing hotel plant; (3) increase the existing hotel room occupancy rate; (4) build new hotel plant; (5) train staff leading to much higher quality of service; and (6) enhance the quantity and quality of tourism experiences.

Martinique is hosting the Caribbean Tourism Organization State of the Industry Conference from October 16th to October 18th 2013, the theme of which is “Perfecting the Experience, Delivering Authenticity”.  The programme includes feature speaker Paul Cohen on October 18. He is scheduled to speak on the topic “Are we ready for the emerging markets Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS)?”  The centre of gravity of wealth has shifted from West to East over the last 50 years when Barbados started its first marketing strategies.

These potential tourists have disposable income, they are looking for new tourism experiences and they expect high standards of service. Paul will visit the questions: How many of these are ready to visit the Caribbean? When are they travelling? What are they looking for in a destination? When are they booking? Who are these travelers – age, income levels and average spend? Does the Caribbean have the tourism product available that these travelers are looking for?

An emerging sector in need of investment finance is enterprise development. The latest evidence that there is no shortage of supply of innovative enterprises is the number of entries in the recently launched Bank on Me project which will expose enterprises to shepherding and investment finance possibilities.  Bank on Me is a reality TV show for enterprises created and produced by Blue Waters Productions and presented in association with Scotiabank.