“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
My column, dated April 21, 2014, was captioned “Media houses must wake up”. This was a sequel to a couple of other columns “The answer is blowing in the wind” and “Stand together as one”. As I indicated in the first of these two columns, if the media were well informed and were more aggressively proactive rather than placidly reactive, then the media exposure will put pressure on the politicians and that will have the potential to change the game or so we hope.
A Caribbean consultant responded: “The exceptionally feeble role of the local press aggravates the situation much more… calling a spade a spade … is what is so badly needed here”. I even suggested that “The Private Sector Association of Barbados must take the lead. They must convene a media conference to share with the media what needs to be done and solicit their partnership”. We must surely keep the populace informed, and we must stand together as one.
Well, it was not a media conference but the annual First Citizens Investment Services Market Outlook Panel Discussion held in Barbados recently that was a spark in the right direction. The media covered this and other recent events well. Here are some of the recent headlines in the Barbados press: “Group of Anti-Government demonstrators take to the streets”, “Small group makes loud call for government to answer the people’s plight”, “We need good governance says Bizzy”, “Foreign exchange restriction is true says expert”, “Economy headed in the wrong direction” and, from New York, “Mia sees new pathway”.
What has been the impact of a small group of anti-government demonstrators taking to the streets in terms of answering the people’s plight? Well, first of all the demonstration made the front page on more than one publication. It is likely that this form of peaceful demonstration will continue on the assumption that only a very insensitive political party will ignore these extensive comments of dissatisfaction coming from a wide cross section of society. They would do so at their political peril. A major issue related the demonstration was not so much a change of government but a change of governance of the country. Just substituting one political party for another will not solve the problem.
Successful businessman Bizzy Williams sums it up by saying we need good governance. Cut unnecessary imports and set targets product by product, service by service and produce more of what we consume. The resultant effect of this is that we will reduce the haemorrhaging of our foreign reserves. Also, if we do not adhere to the rule of law then we shall gradually assume an image of a “lawless” society and tourists and investors will stay away.
Growth can only occur one successful enterprise after another, therefore we must focus on the enterprise. We must stop paying lip service to enterprise development and introduce strong strategies and show steady progress. We are faced with a global statistic of a high failure of start-up enterprises. We cannot accept this. We have to do better than the rest of the world. We have an urgent problem to solve. Let us be leaders not followers. We are small and having the potential to weave our way between the legs of the economic giants in search of appropriately sized markets compatible with our potential to supply.
Our foreign reserves have declined and we have hidden behind a global recession. We should have recognised that it is the failure to manage our business systems – as represented by the adoption of the “board meeting”, “customer needs satisfaction”, “profitability”, “shepherding (productivity)” and “return on investment” cultures – which is at fault.
We have been able, in the past, to maintain the parity of our exchange rate with the US dollar by maintaining levels of economic growth and adopting sensible macro-economic policies.
There is now a claim that there is a restriction by the Central Bank of Barbados on the amount of foreign exchange allowed to leave the country thus signalling a decline in foreign reserves. This, in my experience, applies to the most trivial of requests let alone the daily demands of the trading sector.
Barbados is now faced with a classical “Catch 22” situation. We can only grow the foreign reserves, and hence avoid devaluation, by growing the economy, one successful enterprise after another. On the other hand, we need foreign exchange to grow the economy.
Mia Mottley, Leader of the Opposition in Barbados, has long recognised that the existing system of governance is inadequate and that it is necessary to adopt a system where one combines the best brains of a country to move the country forward.
Speaking from New York she further advocates that all Caribbean countries have the same problem, notwithstanding the fact that Barbados, once the leading beacon, is now somewhat behind its neighbours in terms of prospects for economic growth.
She proposes a Caribbean inspired solution.
The economies of Caribbean countries are too small to individually make an effective impact on the world, but together they may be a force which could have significant positive impact.
Caribbean political leaders have reached a fork in the road. They may sometimes resist what they know is the right path for them. Perhaps they are afraid to take the next step, unsure of what lies ahead.
May they apply Divine wisdom to make straight our paths. And in so doing, propel us forward before it is too late.
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.