During a Central Bank-sponsored discussion on the state of the economy earlier this week, a senior representative of a leading private sector organization raised an issue that zeroed in, simply yet effectively, on the crux of the dilemma facing Barbados at this critical juncture of its development journey.
It has to do with communication. As readers may have realized, this is a favourite topic of ours. Not only because we are in the business of communication but more so because we recognize that communication is an exceptionally powerful tool, unfortunately overlooked in far too many instances, that can make a big difference in making positive things happen
for the benefit of humanity.
Participating in the nationally televised discussion as a panellist, Ms Lisa Gale, the executive director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), identified a lack of communication on the part of Government, specifically in relation to the outcome of various measures it has implemented, as one of the biggest challenges facing the business community.
It is a critical point she made, considering the complementary roles which Government and the private sector are expected play in pursuit of the overriding national objective of growing the economy. In the Barbadian model of a mixed economy, the private sector is supposed to function as the engine of growth. However, it cannot do so effectively without relevant information.
Government, on the other hand, is supposed to create the enabling framework, through adoption of the right policy mix, to encourage the private sector to get on with its important task. Hence, the actions of the private sector, to a large extent, are influenced by the actions of Government.
From what Ms Gale has stated, the kind of information sharing expected from Government to bring the private sector into the loop is not happening to the BCCI’s satisfaction.
Knowing where Government stands on key issues is important to the private sector for another reason. The private sector inevitably incurs risks in undertaking activities that contribute to economic growth. Having such knowledge allows some degree of predictability, which is necessary for effective planning by the private sector.
It also contributes to building confidence, which is necessary for the private sector to make investment and other decisions that can redound to the benefit of the economy as a whole.
It is important, therefore, that clear lines of communication should always be open between Government and the private sector. Without access to the information it needs, the private sector is left with one option. It has to assume on which sound decision-making can never be based. The private sector is not alone, however. The general public too has repeatedly complained about poor communication on the part of this administration.
We have raised this issue on a few previous occasions but, given the critical role of communication in good governance, we cannot do so enough. What will it take to get this administration to realize that how a person or organization communicates makes the difference between achieving success and failure? Why does it seem so bent on courting failure when success is a better option?
Success boils down simply to accomplishing objectives which one has set for oneself. Failure is the exact opposite. Poor communication on Government’s part could very well be a factor hindering the pace of the economic recovery. If the private sector is in the dark about certain aspects of Government policy and how it stands to be affected, it naturally will adopt a cautious approach instead of proceeding at full steam.
When there is communication failure, the consequences can be quite costly. To give a few examples, there is loss of time, loss of respect, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of confidence, loss of trust. On the other hand, when communication succeeds, stakeholders are motivated, do their jobs well, feel empowered, and assume responsibility and take initiative, among other things. Barbados needs to encourage such behaviours in support of economic recovery.
To sum up, poor communication leads to negative outcomes; good communication leads to positive outcomes. Al Ries and Jack Trout, who revolutionized contemporary thinking on communication by pioneering the concept of positioning, put it this way: “With communication going for you, anything is possible. Without it, nothing is possible.”
Will the present administration ever come around to recognizing this fundamental truth?