“May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony” – Romans 15:5
As I set about writing this column with the state of the Barbados economy weighing heavily on my mind, I was inspired to recall the following Shakespearean quotation: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures”.
This motivated me to explore an analogy between this quotation and the Barbados economy. What is the “full sea on which we are now afloat”? How do we detect and take “the current when it serves” so that we do not “lose our ventures”. An economy can only grow, one successful venture after another. We need growth in our economy, that is our challenge!
We cannot reverse history but we can certainly learn from it. Indeed, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The current state of the Barbados economy is what it is and the only option is to search for the tide of opportunity and seek our fortune. Here is a sample profile of our recent history: (1) innovative leadership is lacking; (2) we have tended to rest on our laurels; (3) we have not prepared our disaster mitigation strategy to minimise damage from the potential impact of the changing environment such as a recession; (4) planning has not been as detailed as it could have been and was not diligently accompanied by the organising, staffing, leading and monitoring functions of the cyclical process of management; and (5) we have not exploited all of our capital resources (human, intellectual, social, cultural, physical, natural, financial and spiritual). What can we learn from this historical profile? What is the tide of opportunity which will lead to fortune?
The Barbados economy is seriously haemorrhaging. We have independently and simultaneously witnessed: negative, flat or low economic growth rates; low levels of productivity; growing unemployment rates; rising levels of indiscipline and crime; growing current account deficits; a high debt to GDP ratio; closure of businesses; a fragile real estate market and a decline in foreign reserves. Under these circumstances, the leadership has no choice but to take drastic action which may even involve invasive surgical procedures. Leadership must take this tide of opportunity as we embark on the journey to fortune.
The leadership of a country, however small, is complex as it must embrace all aspects of society. As Dr. E. F. Schumacher said in his book “Small is beautiful – Economics as if people really mattered”, there is an optimal population size administrative unit from a management perspective of 250,000 – 300,000 people. Barbados has that size naturally. Larger population countries are best served by an amalgam of several optimal sized administrative units. Incidentally, the implication is that smaller population countries must amalgamate if they are to be optimally managed. We need a Leadership Think Tank to stimulate a dynamic innovative Vision to which we aspire.
There is a tendency to stop trying because we are satisfied with our past achievements. Despite our success, this is no time to rest on our laurels for our aggressive competitors will continue to take away a lot of our business. It is time to stop blaming the recession for the current state of the economy and instead turn over the leaf and look for the silver lining. We must engage fully in the cyclical management process and apply this to the classical business systems (corporate governance, marketing, operations, HRD and investment finance). We must run the country as if it were a corporation, Barbados Inc., accessing all available capital resources, in pursuit of the goal of sustained economic recovery.
There are two distinct paths that Barbados Inc. must simultaneously pursue. The one is Path A which is arresting the haemorrhaging of the extant economy and the other is Path B which is aspiring to the vision of the future of the economy. These paths have two different sets of objectives, strategies, plans and actions and must be pursued side by side and in harmony with each other. Barbados Inc. will need financial resources to achieve the different objectives and these will come from a combination of foreign and local sources but there must be a philosophy of Shepherding to enhance the chances of success and to protect the financial investment.
Whereas the public and the private sectors must participate in harmony, the corporate governance for Path A is weighted towards the public sector and for Path B, the private sector must lead. In terms of marketing for Path A the needs of all the patients manifesting haemorrhaging symptoms have to be addressed whereas Path B is driven by thoughts on the economy of the future. High levels of productivity and a cost containment culture will be the order of the day for each Path and the development of human resources to sustain the drive for Path A and Path B will be guided by the best in the world. Whereas traditional investment financing may be accessed towards achieving Path A objectives, innovative investment financing must be unleashed for Path B.
We can create harmony by what we think, say, and do. Harmony can be brought to any situation when we tap into our innate centre of peace. At our core, we find love, harmony, order, and understanding. As we bring these qualities into expression, we emanate peace in the world.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET – Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org)