“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1
When a baby is born on planet Earth, any mentally stable parent would wish their child to develop to the fullest and, through procreation, expand the human race. The parent would be mindful of the need to preserve the ecological environment on which human beings are dependent for survival, so that on maturity their offspring could engage in some form of economic activity. This would allow them to convert their free, God-given 24 hours per day into disposable income which would collectively, over all human beings, result in the sustainability of mankind.
This concept is referred to as the triple bottom line, the 3Ps (People, Planet and Profit). If people, for whatever reason, create social unrest; if our ecological space is subjected to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide which induce climate change; if the enabling business environment does not induce prosperity; then mankind, as we know it, is at risk.
Well, we are now at the stage in the Caribbean where mankind is threatened and we must act NOW and hope that it is not already too late. Our leaders, in the form of a public private partnership, must paint a Vision for the future and mobilze all people to implement an Action plan.
Many of us are familiar with the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and their impact on consumption of new materials, energy saving and preservation of the environment.
How about a similar thought as to how we should preserve our governance environment in each of our countries. In this case, the 3Rs would be: Restructure Debt, Reduce the Size of the Civil Service and Re-engineer our Growth Sectors. Simple but not easy, but we better start NOW!
The endemic problem is debt. It is a fait accompli, an irreversible process and the only sensible solution is to Restructure the Debt over a long period of time so that it can be repaid through surpluses from a successful innovative diversification thrust.
When one is seeking a partner in the restructuring process there are only two real options. Go the International Monetary Fund and or to a rich country (relative to the small economies of the Caribbean) and negotiate the necessary fix. Do not look for patchwork solutions and hope for the best.
By the way, the innovative diversification thrust comes with a capital investment cost some of which might be bundled into the long term loan and some sourced through Foreign Direct Investment. This is not a government initiative, this is a country initiative. If the people do not buy into it upfront then the country is dead in the water.
In Barbados, we have allowed our governance systems to languish e.g. a public accounts committee that does not meet; an auditor general’s report that is ignored; no encouragement of a dynamic well funded consumer protection agency. All these, properly functioning, look after the people’s interest.
The Civil Service is the biggest employer in a country. It is inefficient and we need to Reduce the Size of the Civil Service. In parallel, an enterprise development thrust, with a supportive enabling environment, must be sold to displaced employees as an alternative way of earning disposable income. Systems for this enterprise development thrust are already available for implementation but the enabling environment still has a few outstanding weaknesses which need to be strengthened.
Each country has land, marine resources, people and an environment. We must Re-engineer our Growth Sectors around these assets. The sky is the limit, but the vision is the limiting factor. Growth sectors must be induced by global market pull not only by selling tourism to the eastern seaboard of North America, ad nauseam, for nearly 60 years. Successful yes, but not nearly enough to generate the economic growth rates needed for sustainability.
More Vision and Action need to take place in tourism, tourism linkages, creative industries, sport, innovative financial services, renewable energy, converting the 30+ percent of our land area asset, lying in fallow, into agricultural products for exports and import substitution.
Our energies which are dissipated in social unrest must be converted into productive power. It is said that we know what to do to correct this but we do not have the political “guts” to do it.
Let us recognize that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens” and that the time for us to grapple our countries by the collar and lead them along a sustainable path is NOW!