“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” – Psalm 32:8

David Commissiong, Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, as guest columnist in the Barbados Today edition of Thursday, June 6, 2019, wrote an article entitled ”A vision for the economic future of Barbados.”

His premise was that Singapore, starting from a tourism industry base at independence in 1965, diversified from tourism into industrialization and professional services based on a two million domestic market. His vision for Barbados is to leverage the needs of the 18 million strong CARICOM market.

He laments: “Can’t we see a role for Barbados and Barbadians in organizing ourselves to respond to these needs and to benefit economically from doing so? Can’t we see multiple opportunities for providing the nations and populations of our Caribbean community with manufactured goods, professional technical and administrative services and artistic skills? And if we can envisage these opportunities, when are we going to set about to systematically investigate and develop relevant technologies and organizational methodologies to equip us to tackle such a mission?”

I think that there is no better time than now. Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley is currently the Caribbean Prime Minister with responsibility for the CSME and, at the recent Heads of Government meeting in St. Lucia, she was lauded by her peers for her stellar work to date.

The systematic approach will be, as is repeatedly suggested in this column, to conduct a strategic visioning exercise, involving all stakeholders across CARICOM, to determine a rolling four-year strategic plan from which its annual action plans will arise, as was suggested for Cricket West Indies and LIAT – The Caribbean Airline.

I first made fleeting visits to Singapore and Hong Kong in 1982. I was very fascinated with what I saw.

After that visit, I started following the progress of the Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) which underwent rapid industrialization and maintained exceptionally high growth rates between the early 1960s and 1990s. By the early 21st century, all four had developed into high-income economies, specializing in areas of competitive advantage. Hong Kong and Singapore have become world-leading international financial centres, whereas South Korea and Taiwan are world leaders in manufacturing electronic components and devices. Their economic success stories have served as role models for many developing countries.

My next visit to Singapore was in 1993. I was so impressed that I wrote a letter to the editor of The Barbados Advocate entitled “Barbados – The Singapore of the Caribbean.” This article signaled the birth of this column.

I have also had the opportunity to visit Malaysia on several occasions from the mid-90s, and observed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s “Malaysia Incorporated” high growth rate public-private sector model which was implemented in 1983. Now that Mahathir Mohamed is back at the helm of the government at age 94, he has promised to revisit the Malaysia Incorporated model and to build on it.

My next two visits to Singapore in 1999 and 2007 allowed me to continue monitoring the progress of this Asian Tiger, at first hand, and I shared my experiences in this column. No one in Barbados had the vision to follow up.

My son Bevan accompanied me on the 2007 visit. Dr. Carlisle Boyce, a Barbadian living in Singapore at the time, was our host and organized a presentation from the Singapore Economic Development Board, entitled “The Singapore Advantage,” for the three of us. This was extremely enlightening and gave the history of Singapore and its C.O.R.E. development strategy of Connectivity, Openness, Reliability and Enterprise.

Let us encourage Ambassador Commissiong to follow the tracks of the tiger in the dense forest, ultimately trying to reach where the “tiger” is. It is not too late to learn from the successes of Malaysia and the Asian Tigers, in general, and Singapore, in particular.

Let us also listen to the guidance and counsel from above because The Almighty will instruct us and teach us in the way we should go.