I will not write about the US elections; enough has been said. What I would say though is that we should take note and begin to petition the heavens now for God to raise up leaders of integrity and vision so that when our time for elections comes around, we are not faced with a choice, in our constituencies, of the lesser of the two evils.
Which leads me to share about the importance of leadership. This week, one of my mentors sent me an article he had written in which he referenced an extract from an article written by Reudon Eversley in Barbados TODAY on August 14, 2015 which said: “Barbados and Singapore have quite a lot in common. Both are small island states of relatively similar size, though Singapore is slightly larger than Barbados. They share the same British colonial background and proceeded to Independence in the mid-1960s, one year apart, after their participation in a political federation with neighbouring countries did not turn out as they expected. Barbados and Singapore are also resource-poor countries. They have no natural resources, to speak of, to tap for development purposes. As a result, developing their people through education was given high priority.”
That is where the similarity ends. Today, 50 years later, all the economic indicators show that Singapore is way ahead of Barbados at every level. Why is that? Was it the quality of our leaders? Lack of vision? The productivity of the people? All the above? We have had some great leaders in the past who made significant progress in taking the country to a certain level, but we need a different calibre of leader to propel us into the future. We need visionaries and those who are able to instill confidence in the population and who believe and operate with the understanding that together everyone achieves more.
In 1967, Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister of Singapore, and the country moved from Third World economy to First World affluence in a single generation. Lee Kuan Yew’s emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business entrepreneurship, and limitations on internal democracy (he was somewhat of a dictator) shaped Singapore’s policies for the next half-century.
We now need leaders to arise who will begin to look towards the next 50 years and start to plan how to take Barbados forward. We need to begin with the end in mind. For example, if we want a nation where the entrepreneurial spirit is prevalent and entrepreneurial businesses are thriving, we need to put systems in place to inculcate the idea of entrepreneurship in our youth from primary school level. Along with that, we need to implement additional policies to support and stimulate entrepreneurship and facilitate business.
If we want to be able to feed ourselves, we need to stop converting agricultural land into house lots and business parks. As land is a scarce resource in Barbados, we may need to start making strategic alliances with people in Guyana to buy land there and grow food to send to Barbados.
If we want our students to leave school and university with the ability to compete in the changing world, we need to teach them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers because the world has a lot of problems that need solving. I was speaking to a group of UWI students this week about this very thing. I was also somewhat concerned when I asked them if anyone was considering starting a business when they left university or in the future, and only two out of about twenty-five said yes. The others were mainly planning to look for jobs in accounting firms.
Our educational system of the past may have been good for churning out lawyers, doctors and traditional professions, but does it need to be reformed to churn out inventors, creators and problem solvers? It may need to be totally overhauled. The Westminster system may have had its place in the past, but now we can’t afford to be divided when it is unity that will allow us to accomplish the things that we need to.
So if we want Barbados to look anything like Singapore in the next 50 years, we need leaders like Lee Kuan Yew who have vision. But we also need the will of the people to work to make the country successful. That is as basic as turning up for work and being productive on the job. We also need to rid our nation of the spirit of abortion which causes us to come up with ideas and have a lot of (long) talk, but never bring anything to birth.
The truth of the matter is that we do not have to reinvent the wheel. There are several examples around of countries which are successful. Singapore is the one I’ve chosen because of its many similarities. Barbados can be another. Let’s pool our ideas, our knowledge, our energy and our resources and propel our nation towards the next 50 years.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer.
She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, the Barbados Facilitaator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Program and the Barbados Affiliate for the FundRiseHer Campaign. Contact her at [email protected]