Barbados’ less than favourable economic condition is being blamed for low levels of innovation and creativity.
A day after Acting Governor of the Central Bank Cleviston Haynes pointed to falling reserves, high government debt and a continued worrying fiscal position in his third quarter review of the Barbados economy, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) Sonja Trotman said the state of the economy had significantly reduced the level of innovation and creativity.
“We acknowledge that the current economic malaise has significantly dampened innovation and creativity,” Trotman told local, regional and international business leaders, innovators and budding entrepreneurs gathered at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre today for the opening of the BIDC’s two-day Innovate Barbados 2017 conference,
However, the BIDC official said she was confident that her organization, through its various programmes, would be able to help turn that situation around.
“It is our intention to foster and encourage a level of dynamism and creativity that will leave a lasting and sustainable impact on society and our economy as a whole. In essence, it is hoped that this event would allow us to explore new ways of leveraging our best opportunities,” she told the event themed Innovate for Impact.
During a news conference yesterday, where he announced 1.4 per cent growth for the first nine months of the year, Haynes did not speak directly to the issue of innovation and creativity, but said it was critical that Barbados improves its competitiveness by becoming more productive.
“The more you fail to do that, it means that economies that have higher levels of productivity will get an advantage over you and you will not be able to compete. Productivity will have varying concepts depending on the sector,” Haynes said.
Over the two days the BIDC workshop participants will engage in a variety of workshops and various networking sessions as they seek to come up with innovative ways of enhancing the Barbados economy and society.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean said economic challenges, mainly as a result of climate change, would test the creativity of the region.
“The destruction of entire economies in the region will test our creativity and capacity to innovate as we grapple with the requirements of reconstruction. These events are part of a confluence of developments, which have created great uncertainty. However, uncertainty necessitates innovation.
“Here in Barbados we are conscious of the significant, but largely latent, talent pool on which we can and need to draw. We are a natural resource poor, but intellectually rich country, with a significant diaspora which constitutes a significant resource that is only partially tapped,” she said.
Acknowledging that innovative ideas required funding, McClean recommended the financing of such ideas by way of a venture capital fund.
This financing approach, she said, would “enhance the current and future efforts of this Government to foster entrepreneurship and innovation”.
During his address, Ambassador to the United States Selwin Hart warned that natural disasters were likely to inflict even greater economic damage of Caribbean countries, including Barbados.
Drawing reference to the two recent powerful hurricanes, Irma and Maria, which caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to some Caribbean territories, Hart said while he was not being a prophet of doom and gloom, the worst was yet to come and that could significantly affect the island’s bread and butter tourism industry.
Hart was speaking on the topic Surviving Impact: Building Strom Ready Economies in an Era of Superstorms.
“It has been estimated that the economic cost of climate change in just three categories – hurricane damage, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructural damage – could reach US$11 billion annually by 2025. These costs could double to US$22 billion by 2050,” he warned.
“My simple message this morning is not to hope for the best, but rather to prepare for the worst. Our region faces an existential threat from climate change. Climate disruption is now a permanent feature in our efforts to build resilient, prosperous and secure economies and societies in the Caribbean. We therefore have no option but to pursue a low carbon climate resilient pathway. Our viability and survival of sovereign states depend on it.”
He said it would take decisive action, sacrifice, as well as cooperation from all stakeholders in the private sector, government and the civil service to come up with renewable energy and other efforts to help mitigate against the impact of climate change.