“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
In the 1960s the so-called More Developed Countries (MDCs) in the Caribbean – Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago (1962) and Barbados and Guyana (1966) – gained their independence from Britain. Singapore became independent in 1965 and is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary of Independence on August 9, 2015.
In 1970, all of the MDCs, based on any mix of macro-economic indicators, were ahead of Singapore. Today the GDPs per capita of these MDCs are (in USD) Trinidad and Tobago $18,311, Barbados $15,723, Jamaica $5,234 and Guyana $3,263. The GDP per capita of Singapore today is 38,027. What happened to the leadership in the Caribbean?
Last week, a regular reader of my column (a Jamaican living in Canada), having read a recent column entitled “Who are we serving?”, asked me: “Did you get a chance to read the special on Singapore in the July 18-24, 2015 edition of the Economist magazine?” I had not at the time but you may wish to follow the link below:
Also, in another recent column, in reference to an extract from my column on “Governance and Leadership” on November 26, 2006, I repeated that “Barbados needs a strategic visioning retreat(s), among its primary stakeholders, to chart a way to the future, instead of trying to extinguish one socio-economic fire after another. A band aid approach is never optimal. One has to stop, look, listen and then act accordingly.” In a response to this another one of my regular readers (this time a Guyanese living in the US) asked: “Is it accurate to conclude that your 2006 advice to host a strategic visioning retreat was not heeded?”
My response was that if it was held, it must have been a closed session. There is no evidence of innovative dynamic sectoral thrusts to grow the economy but, for example, we wallow in the morass of fallout from precipitous political decisions on a waste to energy plant when, it is not clear, whether a reduce, recycle and reuse policy, say, could provide a more holistically beneficial alternative. It seems like the Greenland landfill experience all over again!
In a situation like this, the Government should lean on the shoulders of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association which would have a cadre of expertise with greater local knowledge, more experience and less political influence than any group of expertise that Government could afford to have access to among politicians or in the civil service.
Last week we alluded to the medical tourism industry as a potential sector to be developed in Caribbean states and noted how Grand Cayman, incidentally with the highest GDP per capita in the Caribbean, had led the way at the Health City Cayman Islands hospital. Singapore is also among the list of countries that have exploited this opportunity.
Continuing on the theme of a strategic visioning retreat(s) in which we must involve “anybody with a head”, as the Japanese would say, these need to be organized to take the countries of the Caribbean forward. There are two areas that come to mind which need immediate attention. Number one: systematically look and see what Singapore has done and how they have done it and see how much we can learn from it. Number two: If your economy is shrinking, there will be job losses. The only sensible thing to do is to create a coordinated user friendly private sector led (with Government support) enterprise development environment where the leadership is focusing on opportunities which will eventually lead to more jobs as the businesses grow in the global marketplace.
There is already in place a CBET proven “High Impact Growth Strategy” workshop which can develop ideas, with “the DNA of an Elephant”, within two days from a blank sheet of paper. The other two components are Shepherding and money.
In addition to Government and the private sector there are many charities which are involved and provide support in a social partnership to develop an economy. Barbadian businessman and thought leader Peter Boos wrote me recently introducing a new organization called “ASPIRE – Helping charities help” some of the content of which I am now sharing with readers.
Since the conception of the idea in October 2014, ASPIRE has achieved the following: (1) A voluntary board of three Founding Trustees (with significant international philanthropic experience, influence and relationships) has been established. Initial funding for operations has been committed by the Trustees; (2) A voluntary Advisory Board of Barbadian leaders and an experienced philanthropist has been established; (3) A Project Manager is on board; (3) Office accommodation has been procured pro bono; (4) Incorporation as a Not-for-Profit entity is in progress; (4) Branding of the organization is underway with pro bono guidance; (5) Significant progress has been made to expand the donor community with major commitments of funding support indicated; (6) In the process of selecting the team of expert volunteers to manage: Finance, Accounting, Reporting and Auditing, Business Planning and Proposal Writing, Mentorship and Training, Governance, Marketing and Communications; (7) Development of the Accreditation Model, including consultancies with Third Sector experts; and (8) Completing operational documents, and planning and meeting with a pilot group of charities and donor partners.
By October 2015 ASPIRE expects to be in a position to begin working with the pilot group of eight charities which have been identified for immediate support. ASPIRE thanks all partners for their continued support.
Let us make sure that we are not doing things just because it’s the way we always did them before. Instead, let us listen to that Divine voice inside so that the wonderful plan in store for us will be revealed.
(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.)