“It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.” – Psalm 18:28
The first and last paragraphs from the Abstract of a 2013 Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) study follow:
“This survey posits that improving global prospects especially in the United States and Europe will mean opportunities for positive growth in the Caribbean due to increasing exports and renewed inflows from foreign direct investment and remittances.”
“The outlook for 2012 and 2013 is for modest overall growth in the sub-region and this is contingent on improved demand in major export markets over this period leading to increased domestic investment and employment”.
Well I guess we have grown accustomed to this macro-economic language and I can assure you that the intervening paragraphs of the Abstract were no more helpful in suggesting a micro-economic solution to our poor rates of economic growth.
What continues to amaze me is that there seems to be a lack of appreciation that economies can only grow one successful enterprise after another and that the macro-economic language should be reserved to report successes rather than to propose visions of grandeur and to rationalize failures. I would much prefer to see more resources being rapidly allocated to potential micro-economic opportunities and let the macro-economic issues stabilize themselves when significant growth takes place.
I think that there is a lesson to be learned from my day-to-day interactions with entrepreneurs. I have found that not only do I mentor them on the management of the systems of their business but I also help them with issues of mind-set change. The response to the latter, in particular, is eminently gratifying among many of my clients. This combination of facilitating mind-set change and business mentoring, for those who might have missed it, is called Shepherding.
The managers of the economies of the Caribbean seem to be overwhelmed with the challenge of economic growth, they do not seem to know where to go for help. They keep on doing the same things over and over and expect to get improved results. The business solution is right there on their doorstep, alas, the light at the end of the tunnel is not that of an oncoming train, it is indeed the global market opportunity.
It seems to have eluded these managers that they are human beings with a body, mind and soul. No doubt some of them realize that they need to nurture their bodies and stay healthy and alive but they also need to be attuned spiritually and ask God to illuminate their mind-sets with passion, persistence and patience and develop their souls. They need to seek the tranquil, idyllic and serene atmosphere of a spiritual blanket and listen to the whispers from heaven.
Investment funding is also an essential ingredient to exploit the global market. It is often said that although our governments are cash poor; there is no shortage of money in the local private sectors, the problem is access to this money. Innovative thinking is needed. International loans might be necessary for Government projects but for growth in the economy we need to mobilize the funding in the private sector with an initial incentive in the form of a government guarantee, establish a crowdfunding platform, mobilize Diaspora investment and design projects to attract foreign direct investment.
We need to expand our market focus beyond the Caribbean marketplace which has a relatively small consumer base. Yes, growth must come from the global market opportunities which abound for goods and services from the Caribbean, if we do things differently.
Here are some examples of global market opportunities which are currently underexploited.
Tourism – The Caribbean Tourism Organization markets tourism for the region yet there are tourists in many areas of the world who have significant disposable income and are looking to diversify their leisure activities but who are not “aware” of the Caribbean as a tourism destination.
International Travel – The vision for LIAT should not only be an airline which services intra-regional demand but one that is linked with international carriers to take multi-destination tourists through the Caribbean.
Agriculture – The recently launched Caribbean Food 2020 Business Innovation Revolution believes that the Caribbean can inspire the world, leveraging food as a business example. It encompasses the skill sets of food design, open innovation, shepherding and communications with quick guaranteed access to the global market.
Intellectual property – The mission of the GraceKennedy Group in Jamaica is “To take the taste of Jamaican and other Caribbean foods to the world and world-class financial services to our region”. The Grace label can be seen on foods in the supermarket shelves as far afield as Karachi, Pakistan. What is the business model? The recipe is sent by email, the food is grown and canned in Sri Lanka and shipped to nearby Pakistan – the “recipe royalties” contribute to the growth of the Jamaican economy.
On the other hand, the vision of the Chefette restaurant chain in Barbados is “To remain the leading fast food restaurant in Barbados, by delivering total customer satisfaction through quality, service, cleanliness and value”. There is nothing about the global market in this vision. Based on personal experience, I believe that the Chefette concept would be well received in many countries in Southern Africa for a start. Why not franchise the brand and let royalty cheques flow into Barbados to grow the Barbados economy – KFC or McDonald’s style?
Other examples could be cited e.g. cricket, extractive industries, cultural industries, renewable energy and the University of the West Indies.
Let us encourage new ideas and may peace wash over us as our paths become clear. May we be guided by the light of God as to which steps to take.
Happy Easter to all!
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)