“Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin” – Proverbs 18:24

International development is big business. It is reported that official global aid flows from North to South are over US$100 billion annually. However, China and India, former aid recipients, are rapidly entering the field as aid providers themselves.

Such a business opportunity initially arose, quite simply, because the donor country found itself with a surplus of cash and other resources (human, intellectual, social, cultural, physical, natural and financial), however obtained, which it could not effectively utilise in its own country. Then, through adroit agreements between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance of the donor country and the recipient country prepared a “donor” package which the absorbent recipient country accepted with open arms.

However, studies have shown that this “Donor Country” model, whereas it may help the recipient country in many ways, results in a net benefit to the donor country. This is primarily because the aid is usually tied to the purchase of resources from the donor country. Also, representatives and consultants from the donor country are often residents in the recipient countries thus benefiting from the infrastructure in the recipient countries. Imagine the impact on a donor country if its aid programme were to be closed down and the donor country had to provide jobs and facilities for all of its representatives and consultants who were commissioned to all of those recipient countries around the world.

Turkey is a relatively new player in the “Donor Country” model through the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA). TIKA was established in 1992 soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The decision at that time was more of a reflex action by the state than the outcome of a strategic plan. The Turkic and other former Soviet countries faced severe difficulties at the time with the immediate disintegration of the Soviet Union. Today, Turkey is among the countries raising the highest levels of foreign aid, by increasing the amount of funds it provides for nations abroad by 30-fold in the past 10 years, according to official data. This has resulted in a net benefit to Turkey’s economy.

It should be noted that Turkey’s per capita income although greater than that of Guyana and Jamaica is certainly less than that of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. When you look at the statistics today Turkey is the leading country in its region and has the largest investment and business communities in those countries. It has provided thousands of bureaucrats from those countries with training, and these activities are continuing. Turkey has a significant number of schools in the region and also a significant number of students from the region are offered training in Turkey. Through this synergy, the regional cooperation is progressing on stronger ground.
Turkey has had the vision to take advantage of an opportunity and is now established as a donor country.

Surely it is not beyond the capacity of selected Caribbean Countries to do the same.  The initial financial investment by a “Caribbean Donor Country” can be modest, later expanding commensurately with its success. The initial recipient countries may be selected small states and emerging nations around the world. Here is an example of such a potential opportunity.

In the Caribbean Journal dated February 5, 2014 there was a headline “Lesotho Seeks Barbados’ Help to Develop Tourism Industry”.  The article stated and I quote: the African nation of Lesotho, a mountainous country surrounded on all sides by South Africa, is seeking Barbados’ help in developing its tourism industry. Lesotho High Commissioner to Barbados Dr Mathabo Tsepa recently held talks with Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, expressing an interest in drawing on Barbados’ expertise in the area. According to Tsepa, Lesotho is looking to improve its tourism sector enough to make it the country’s main source of economic activity… “Given the successful work in tourism that Barbados has demonstrated, the Government of Lesotho would like to draw on Barbados’ expertise and human exchanges and experiences to learn from you and your government how you have attained this success,” she told Stuart.  Stuart said Barbados was ready to share its “know how” with Lesotho – end of quote.

An innovative and visionary response to this request is for Barbados to become, like Turkey, a donor country and put together a team of local/ regional tourism experts and offer Lesotho a solution to their problem. This will also enhance South-South dialogue. Barbados will ultimately, as the traditional donor countries have done over the years and Turkey more recently, become net beneficiaries of the aid that it supplies to Lesotho and other counties as the strategy evolves.  This model may help us to develop true friends who may stick as close as one’s nearest kin.

One may ask, in the case of Barbados, “where does the money come from to initiate the reverse donor country model”. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago this may not be as much a concern.  In my opinion, this question is not difficult to answer because Barbados has only one recovery strategy as was stated by the Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Dr. C. Fred Bergsten, last week, who is a six-week sabbatical guest of the Central Bank of Barbados. On the one hand it has to refinance its debt and, in parallel, it has to finance an innovative strategy to grow the economy. Whether, the refinancing resources come from the IMF, with attendant conditions, or whether, as Minister David Estwick is proposing, they come from the United Arab Emirates, with conditions which are so far unknown to the public, or whether they come out of the blue from China or India, is the responsibility of those who have been elected to govern.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET – Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org)