There is only one way forward for Barbados. Simply put, our country has – by its own efforts – to develop itself out of the condition of stasis and crisis that it has found itself in over the past decade.
And it must do so by pursuing critical reforms in its education system (along the lines outlined in Part 3 of this extended essay), and also by basing its future development efforts squarely on the advanced educational and human development standards that it achieves and upholds as a nation.
If we Barbadians adopt this type of approach to the future development of our nation, there are at least 20 developmental projects and initiatives that I would wish to recommend. These are as follows:-
(1) Education as an industry
I have already made the point that we should set out to establish education as a foreign-exchange earning industry in its own right, and a new addition to the productive engines of our economy. The details of this proposal were spelled out in Part 3 of this extended essay and I will therefore not repeat them. Suffice it to say that it is not beyond Barbados to provide fee-based services for a wide range of regional and extra-regional students.
(2) High or advanced technology manufacturing
There are two ways in which Barbados can get involved in and pursuit of high or advanced technology manufacturing.
Firstly, we must recognize that inasmuch as Barbados is such an extremely small nation, local enterprises that are attempting to manufacture goods for the export market should be brought together in a centralized, cooperative structure that would permit the most advanced equipment (technology) to be collectively acquired and made available to the entire collective entity.
In order words, let us conceive of our small nation as one centralized factory, and let our enterprises collectively (and with the support and input of our government) acquire the most advanced and efficient equipment – equipment that would otherwise be beyond the reach of any individual enterprise – and let us produce a generic Barbados-branded product for the export market.
Secondly, where foreign high technology manufacturing companies are concerned, let us adopt the approach that Singapore utilized in relation to attracting German and Japanese high technology manufacturing companies to that small Southeast Asian country.
The Singapore strategy was to invite initially skeptical high technology German and Japanese companies to partner with the government of Singapore in establishing (on a 50:50 basis) Singapore-based training institutions in which the Germans and Japanese would instruct would-be employees in the techniques and standards required by the Japanese or German manufacturing company. Thereafter, having participated in the training of the workers, the Japanese and German companies became confident about relocating some of their high technology manufacturing operations to Singapore.
Permit me to give one example of how Barbados can pursue this idea. Barbados claims to have a special relationship with Great Britain. Well, let us invite Britain to not merely send tourists to our shores, but to relocate some of the factory operations of their high technology pharmaceutical and aeronautics industries, on the basis of the joint (Barbados Government-British multi-national company) establishment of specialized worker training institutes.
Please note that I am not making a case for any and every type of foreign industry. Rather, I am restricting myself to high wage-paying, high technology industry that is based on a highly trained and educated cohort of workers.
(3) Intensive, high technology, food production
Barbados’ food import bill is approaching $800 million per year! If the Israelis can utilize technology that permits them to grow food in the desert, there in no reason why Barbados, with advanced standards of literacy and education, cannot utilize appropriate technology and organizational methods to produce much more of the food required for local consumption.
The problem that we face is not one of the lack of intellectual or technical capacity, but one of attitude. Here is one example that proves the point: several years ago a greenhouse was donated to Harrison College by a well-meaning benefactor, but to this day it has never been used and has fallen into a state of decay. Why do our educational authorities refuse to introduce our high academic achievers to the idea of participating in intensive technology-based food production?
The way forward, therefore, is for the relevant Barbadian institutions to conceptualize an intensive, high technology-based food production industry for Barbados, and to orchestrate a national mission to reduce the country’s food import bill by some two-thirds.
(4) Cultural or arts-based industries
Barbados has excelled in the sphere of literature, having produced the likes of Hilton Vaughan, Frank Collymore, George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, Paule Marshall, Tom Clarke, Timothy Callender, and Bruce St John, and many others. Yet we have done nothing to build an industry around this national resource,
Similarly, we possess, in the person of Robyn Rihanna Fenty, an international musical superstar who has broken virtually every conceivable record and created a buzz around the name of her country of origin. And yet, our government and private sector have done nothing to capitalize on the opportunity that Rihanna’s success has presented to construct a music/entertainment industry!
We need a national programme to pull together and synergize the undoubted talent that exists in Barbados in music, drama, literature, dance, painting and performance poetry; to organize this talent along industrial lines; to give it a “Barbados” brand; and to market it to the world. Once again, we need to think of Barbados as one centralized entity.
Furthermore, Barbados should also possess at least one national symphony orchestra, dance company, and theatre company for the enjoyment of both locals and visitors to the island.
(5) Cultural and heritage tourism
The next phase in the development of Barbados’ tourism industry should be a cultural tourism phase centred around locally owned hotels and guest houses that radiate the unique culture and sense of hospitality of Barbados and of their Barbadian owners.
In addition, the entire island of Barbados – its landscape, history, heritage, arts and culture – should be seen as the tourism product, and not merely the traditional sun, sea and sex. We should, for example, develop multiple sightseeing and heritage, trails replete with proper signage, that encourage and facilitate tourists to visit and experience the entire island, thereby permitting a wide range of Barbadian product and service providers to benefit financially.
Hotels must also be encouraged to invest in and to provide good and substantial career opportunities for the entertainers and performing artistes of Barbados. Let visitors be invited to come to Barbados to, among other things, discover the next Rihanna!
(6) Health tourism
Far from discouraging young Barbadians from getting involved in medical training, and rejecting young Cuba-trained Barbadian doctors, we should recognize that Barbados possesses a potential comparative advantage where health or medical tourism is concerned, and we should set about to capitalize on such potential. There are multiple possibilities for the construction of new medical tourism facilities, inclusive of the old General Hospital and Eye Ward properties located on Bay Street and abutting on the magnificent Browne’s Beach.
There is also the possibility of partnering with the Cuban medical system and availing ourselves of all of the new, advanced medications and medical techniques that Cuba has developed for dealing with ailments ranging from diabetes to cancer.
(7) Sport tourism
Every single national sport or game association in Barbados should be required to have a Sports Tourism Sub-Committee as part of its management structure, and there should be designated Sports Tourism Facilitation Officers in place at the Ministry of Sports, Ministry of Tourism, Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and Barbados Tourism Authority, ready and willing to work collaboratively with the national associations to develop and implement sports tourism projects.
There are 12 months in a year, and there is no reason why, with the right vision and organization, we cannot have year-round sports tourism activities based on the more than two dozen sports and games that are practised in Barbados.
(To be continued)
David Comissiong is President of the Clement Payne Movement