Put your money where your mouth is!
Throwing out this challenge last evening, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, said it was not enough for Barbadians to talk about fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship while doing little to support its development.
Delivering the 11th annual Samuel Jackman Prescod lecture under the theme,Technical and Vocational Education: Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurship in a Small Island Developing State, she noted that while technical and vocational education had long been treated as a second option, it had “tremendous transformative potential” but there was a dire need for new financing strategies to propel its growth.
McClean stressed that there were opportunities for Barbadians to create financing mechanisms to support innovation and entrepreneurship, but they were not being used. In this regard, she challenged Barbadians to put their mounting bank savings which were not yielding significant returns to better use.
“If we look at our commercial banking sector, we often hear of the high level of liquidity in our banking system . . . Our money is sitting there in the commercial banks, generating for us at a maximum two per cent interest. However, if any one of us wants to go and start a venture, you and I will have significant challenge.”
Citing data on private savings in commercial banks from 2013, McClean said there was approximately six plus billion dollars and she was adamant that this represented a waste of resources.
She argued that while educational institutions like the Polytechnic benefitted from enabling Government policies and cutting edge technology, it wouldn’t move to the next level without sound financial support.
“Ten per cent of six billion is 600 million dollars; one per cent of that is 60 million dollars. The point I am making is this: if for every dollar we have in commercial banks, we took out every ten cents or one cent as citizens who would leave it there and can’t borrow it back to help your son start up a business very easily if he wants to, we would then be in a position to control a pool of funds not seen in any one place in this country to put into investment purposes to do a lot of what we are saying.”
McClean said for the situation to turn around, Barbadians needed a new mindset, that of risk takers.
“I believe we need to put our monies where our mouths are. And if we can do that, then I can guarantee that when we talk about the synergies that can be realized through working with our Diaspora, working with our young people and the general population that we have in Barbados, we can address some of the challenges that we face in terms of unemployment, in terms of foreign exchange generation or savings and eventually address the issue of the quality of life and the ability to create wealth by ourselves for ourselves using what we have.”
McClean stressed that as the island approached its 50th anniversary of independence next year, it was time to take stock of its technical and vocational offerings to safeguard accomplishments achieved since November 1966.
“We can only do that by being prepared to invest in our future, and that includes an investment of our time and talents,” she said.
The Foreign Minister added that technical and vocational education would benefit if efforts were made to prepare the future generation for the new economy and steps are taken to draw on the experience of talented Barbadians living in the Diaspora.