“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Well, after four weekly columns exploring solutions to the challenges of the Caribbean, the messages are still coming in.
(1) Barbadian journalist and radio broadcaster: “The focus ought to be on evaluative rather than investigative journalism. Our communities are too small. We cannot afford to destroy men and women simply because they are unfortunate enough to have exposed the fallibility which they share with all mankind. Journalists in our small societies should go after incompetence, deliberate wrong-doing and corruption, not the foibles and private misbehaviour of individuals. If it is at all possible, we should try to follow the example of Clennell Wickham.”
Wickham (September 21, 1895 – October 6, 1938) was a radical West Indian journalist, editor of Barbadian newspaper, The Herald, and champion of working-class causes against the planter oligarchy in colonial Barbados during the inter-war period, leading to the social unrest that triggered the Riots of July 26, 1937.
(2) Caribbean media operative: “This article is an example of excellent expository writing in journalism, which has stimulated me to a greater extent to guard my freedom to write in the interest and protection of the people without fear of giving my opinion as publisher and editor-in-chief. Thank you …for providing the topic and forum to carry out this important discussion. Thank you also for including my spirit-filled comments”.
Yes, the myriad messages were gratifying and I proposed that the media houses must wake up and engage in investigative journalism to stir Caribbean governments into action. But alas, we are told by experienced journalists that these types of reporters are scarce.
Back to the drawing board then for another burst of inspiration!
As if in answer to my prayer, I was inspired by an article sent to me by my son Bevan which reported that President of the Council of Churches of the City of New York and senior pastor of Brooklyn, N.Y.’s 30,000-plus member Christian Cultural Center A.R. Bernard, called on black church leaders recently to develop a framework to address the myriad issues facing the black community in contemporary America.
Following on this, Bevan’s recommendation was: “We don’t need a message, we need a framework”.
Then, it all came back to me. In the early 1990s, a tripartite Social Partnership (government, trade unions and the private sector) was formally established in Barbados to deal with the consequences of the economic crisis and to implement the Structural Adjustment Programme with the IMF without need for currency devaluation.
I was privileged to be asked by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in March 2007 to review the progress of this social partnership and submitted my report in June 2007.
The change in political administration, on January 15, 2008, heralded a promised new look for the Social Partnership by Prime Minister David Thompson, including: “(1) the expansion of the tripartite grouping to bring into the fold other significant actors who have a genuine interest in the work of the grouping; (2) an understanding that the myriad of challenges for countries such as Barbados could only be dealt with through diverse social dialogue and partnerships; (3) a recognition that the Social Partnership needs to work not only harder but smarter; (4) a restructuring to focus its attention on macro socio-economic issues; and (5) the provision of a fully functional and well-staffed Secretariat”. A Framework indeed!
Many successful countries, especially latecomers, in terms of export diversification and enhancement have not relied entirely on spontaneous market forces. Rather they have developed public-private alliances to build consensus about long term strategies. They have proactively established specialized public institutions to support the innovative, entrepreneurial and investment private sector activities that are needed to stimulate national export sectors.
This ECLAC project was designed to tell the story of the learning experience and relative success of Barbados as an example of a country that has employed public-private alliances. Other country cases were also studied by ECLAC, including Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Malaysia and Singapore. Barbados was the only country case in the English-speaking Caribbean.
My new proposal, therefore, to stir the Caribbean governments into action, is for each and every one of us to pray that in each Caribbean country a leader(s) would emerge to introduce the public private partnership framework or revamp it along the lines suggested by the late Barbados Prime Minister, above.
This framework would be focused on governance (Integrate the social compact into the governance structure of a country); marketing (Establish a strong public relations arm so that all persons think “smart partnership” in their day-to-day living); operations (Expand the tripartite nature of the social compact to include wider representation from national stakeholders, including the church, other religious institutions and mass media, which have an important role to communicate the activities of the social compact to the wider community); people development (Appoint a full-time CEO, with a highly qualified and experienced secretariat); and finance (Fund a budget to adequately manage a centre of excellence in strategic thinking with the best brains available).
Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.