The struggles which Barbados currently experiences to diversify its economy and develop new income earners is the result of years of complacency, according to the top executive of the business unit of The University of the West Indies (UWI) that provides international and regional advisory services.
Executive Director of the UWI Consulting Company (UWIC) Lisa Cummins today told the 31st annual Sales Congress for the Caribbean Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (CARAIFA) at the Hilton Barbados Resort that Barbados had become comfortable over the years, which resulted in the barriers and challenges it faces today.
“Barbados got comfortable with the notion that we are Barbados . . . and there was a notion that we were always going to do well. We were the gem of the Caribbean, we would always thrive, we had a strong development model and it would always be so. We live in Barbados now, is that true? That is far from the truth. We have our challenges, there are those barriers,” Cummins said.
Using the sugar industry as an example, she explained that while some countries had understood the need to diversify their economies, Barbados became contented, believing it would always have preferential access to some markets.
The former diplomat also pointed to Trinidad and Tobago, saying the oil-rich nation was now struggling to diversify its economy given the low cost of oil and greater use of renewable energy, which was having a negative impact on economic growth.
“How many other cases, how many other sectors, how many other industries, how many other development paradigms can we apply that to right here in our Caribbean?” Cummins asked.
The UWIC boss called for reform of the education system in Barbados and the region to allow people to go beyond mere regurgitation of information, and be more innovative.
“Countries and businesses are constantly on the cutting edge of innovation, they are constantly looking to see what comes next, they are constantly looking to see what barriers are in front of them and are to be anticipated and then crafting new strategies to address them.
“We need to have what I call the success imperative – success individually, success professionally, success in business, but most importantly success as the collective in this Caribbean space. It means we need to do a couple of things based on the things I have outlined – the development of a new development paradigm, it must be based on the imperatives of now, the barriers we can see before us. We must be more innovative we must take our young people out of these boxes,” Cummins advised.