“And the Lord answered me, and said, write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” – Habakkuk 2:2-3
I have spent decades observing the economic ebbs and flows of the Caribbean. I’ve seen countries rise and fall on the global stage. In this ongoing dance of ambition and execution, Barbados has recently come under the spotlight. The audacious and ambitious leadership of Prime Minister Mia Mottley forces one to ponder: will Barbados become the beacon of visionary economic leadership for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)?
Two of my last three columns, related to Singapore as a role model for Barbados, created quite a stir, as was the case when I first touched on the topic 30 years ago. Indeed, so diverse and uninformed were the opinions expressed then that I refused to discuss Singapore as a role model for small state development with anyone who had not visited Singapore. I read an email thread featuring Caribbean visionaries and intellectuals over the last few weeks and today I have attempted to synthesize the opinions proffered.
One of PM Mottley’s most positive proposals has been to set a 2030 target date for Barbados to achieve First World status. This is not just a title – it’s a dream to uplift every Barbadian to place the country on par with the world’s most developed nations. It’s an aspiration that, if achieved, would resonate across CARICOM and prove that island nations, with the right leadership, can rise above historical economic shackles.
In line with this aspiration, the idea of establishing Barbados as a Western Trading Hub stands out by facilitating trade in a network of countries within a 12-hour flying time radius. In this context, Barbados will position itself as a nexus of trade and commerce – a Caribbean Singapore, if you will.
Given Barbados’ strategic location in the Atlantic and less than 1,400 miles from the Panama Canal, the possibilities are boundless. Not only would this enhance Barbados’ economic footprint, but it would also bolster the region, making CARICOM more unified and potent on the global stage.
Any seasoned economist will tell you that for sustained growth, a nation needs a solid demand-driven critical mass. Barbados, like many of its CARICOM counterparts, grapples with a limited population base. PM Mottley’s proposition to ‘import’ people is not just about numbers. It’s about infusing fresh talent, ideas and energy – a potent mixture to drive, innovation, disruption and demand.
Barbadians and other Caribbean nationals abroad (our diaspora) are known for their tenacity. Many work two jobs in the day and burn the midnight oil studying. This discipline and unyielding will to succeed could be harnessed to fuel our nation’s growth. By providing opportunities and incentives for these individuals to contribute to Barbados’ economy, whether through remote work or returning home, we can tap into a reservoir of ambition and expertise.
As we tread this ambitious path, we don’t have to look far for role models. Countries like Costa Rica, Israel and Singapore have showcased that size isn’t always directly proportional to economic prowess. Costa Rica, with its green initiatives; Israel, with its technological innovations; and Singapore, with its trading acumen – each presents a blueprint of success tailored to its strengths. Barbados, with its blend of natural beauty, strategic location and untapped potential, has all the ingredients to create its unique success story.
The vision laid out by PM Mottley is not just about economic ascension for Barbados. It’s a call for CARICOM to rally and to believe that our collective might is greater than the sum of our individual parts. If executed with passion, precision, persistence and patience and a genuine commitment to the well-being of every Barbadian and Caribbean citizen, we might just be on the cusp of a Caribbean renaissance … led by the indomitable spirit of Barbados.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is email@example.com. His columns may be found at www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com).