In making weekly contributions to Barbados TODAY on a range of issues, primarily related to our economic, business and national performance over the past year, I have often had reason to reflect on all of my writings; and while I continue to comment on what exists around each of us and our respective experiences, it caused me to go back to a time when the atmosphere and spirit over our beloved country was far more positive, regardless of any hardship being experienced.
For what I prefer to believe are a multitude of reasons, there is much pessimism, lack of hope, concern and overall increased frustration coming from the business community, employees, individuals and others. I am not for one minute suggesting that this refers to a majority; however, the negativity is more evident across our island than ever before, even during previous economic hardship.
Barbados was once seen as a gem, as a paradise, as a leader, and this was recently dissected and articulated by Dr Ralph Gonsalves in his piece The Idea Of Barbados.
My question is: have we lost this position of pre-eminence? Have we lost our position among other CARICOM and international countries?
Despite these concerns, our nation still has much to be proud of and, more importantly, also has the opportunity
to fully regain its position, depending on how we handle the issues currently confronting us.
Personally, I remain as optimistic as I always was about our future as a nation and a people, because we know exactly what is required of us to achieve this; but nonetheless I thought it wise to use my allotted space this week to highlight some of the many positives that still exist in our society and economy, using my many interactions over the past year as a point of reference.
1. We continue to enjoy a stable system of Government at all levels –– characterized by many committed civil servants doing the best job based on the resources and operational and management systems at their disposal. While we do have a firm foundation, however, we need to be focused on improving our strategic position in an increasingly competitive world.
2. We still possess a sound educational platform, from nursery to tertiary, that continues to provide a foundation for each generation –– regardless of recent requirements to make a contribution to fees. What we must do now is reposition our educational system with a focus on quality, delivery modes and better alignment of our strengths in this area to the needs of our enterprises, Government and national development as a whole.
3. We have a cadre of dynamic young Barbadians ready to take our country to new levels, investing their time and energy each day in sectors, industries and areas of endeavor. This is likely our major positive, as we work our way through the economic crisis and seek to emerge a stronger and more focused economy.
We can ill afford to lose the interest of the younger citizens and the wealth of creativity and innovation that they possess. They represent the future of business and society in this country and firstly must be incorporated through our education system; secondly through joining the workforce; and thirdly by being given a change to implement change and connect the younger generation with our decision makers.
4. We have seen the continuous progress and achievements of our women in our society at all levels, the most recent to be celebrated being Toni Moore of the Barbados Workers’ Union and Dr Eudine Barriteau of the University of the West Indies –– working to inspire more of our young women into leadership roles. The evidence shows that our educational system is saturated with a higher ratio of females than males, and I also believe the evidence will confirm the enhanced role and contribution only women can make, and it is reflected in the movement of more and more females into leadership and strategic positions.
We have a history of strong females in business and society, and I believe this is another aspect to our country’s future success and sustainability.
5. Our local entertainment fraternity, currently led by Rihanna, continues to make strides on the regional and international stage, showcasing our talents. We can no longer await chance encounters or exposure to recording or creative industry moguls; we have to create the path.
This is still an emerging business for Barbados, but a potentially viable and financially successful one. Richard Stoute, Kingsley Thorne, Toni Thorne, Cecily Spencer-Cross and many other creative minds too numerous to mention have laid a foundation, and we must capitalize on it.
Our Caribbean region is known for entertainment and culture, but this cannot remain limited to Machel Montano and Bob Marley. Each of our entertainers has to be commercialized to generate wealth and contribute to our brand.
6. We have a strong private sector that in several cases have made strides even where support from Government has been lacking. We must take further responsibility for where this country is headed in relation to its economic wealth, and seek solutions that would be effected without significant Government intervention, which is a scarce resource for the Caribbean administrations at this time. We have to be leaders in innovation, productivity, technology, market expansion and overall wealth creation.
So these positives go to reputation of our country regionally and internationally and suggest that there is nothing this
great country cannot achieve. The major positive is that our country clearly has the strong foundation required to advance our progress. Why are we collectively no further?
This remains the question . . . but maybe we are not collectively working on the way forward, and just sitting waiting on a saviour from the East or West. We can no longer afford to do so.
Unfortunately, these positives highlighted are not going very far in affecting the “happiness index” across the country or working to lift the feelings of frustration felt by so many. The challenge with positives is often that they can be easily negated by as little as one negative.
As a people, I believe, we have simply become tired and disillusioned with many aspects of our existence as a country, and many feel powerless to effect the change that is required. But we cannot give up.
(David Simpson is managing director of Prestige Accounting Inc. and a director of the Barbados Entrepreneurial Foundation.)