One service industry specialist is forecasting that the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme will result in the creation of new opportunities.
At the same time, Executive Director of the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries (BCSI) Graham Clarke is warning authorities that any strategy used to create economic transformation should be a comprehensive one that includes the entire country.
Quoting the adage that necessity is the mother of invention, Clarke told the BCSI’s BimTech Digital Forum on Friday that there was no better time for Barbados to “reinvent” than now.
“BERT will, of necessity, create new opportunities for us as we all seek to play our part in rebuilding our economy and repositioning Barbados for the future,” he said.
Clarke said Barbados needed to adopt practices from elsewhere as it seeks to improve its economic fortune, and Clarke pointed to the development of technology in California as one example of some best practices that can be adopted. He explained that those best practices included a planning and development strategy that “builds from the ground up” and included “wide participation of our people”.
“Barbados is of course not California so we need to adopt and create scalable, relevant technology solutions to the issues we face as a country,” he said.
“We need an inclusive strategy and not one that includes people based on where they live, what school they have been to or who they are connected to. I sometimes feel that when it comes to national economic planning and development that we are a little too segregated and we need to be a lot more integrated,” he said.
Clarke said the strategy also called for the country to be committed to a long-term strategic plan “for and from our communities” and to identify assets within the various communities that could be used to aid in national development.
“Finally, we need our university and our research institutions to be anchored within the community, solving the real problems that our communities and country are facing; moving research from the lab to innovations, to the production of saleable products and services for the local and international market,” he said.
In her presentation, Director in the Department of Economic Development for the Organization of American State (OAS) Dr Maryse Robert warned that the advancements in technology globally would definitely have some impact on local industries and by extension the economy.
She explained that global changes have already started to heighten competition, tighten labour markets and result in countries employing new investment strategies.
“The unprecedented . . . of technological change means that our systems of health, transportation, communication, production, distribution and energy, just to name a few, will be completely transformed,” she warned.
Dr Robert said managing that change would require new frameworks at the national and international level and a new model of education complete with targeted programmes for teaching workers new skills.
With an explosion of artificial intelligence and robotics, she added, aging societies would be forced to move from a narrative of production and consumption “toward one of sharing and caring”.
Pointing out that the private sector and non-governmental organizations will have a critical role to play in the transformation of the economy, Dr. Robert said it was necessary to have “all the voices, ideas, and perspectives at the table”.
She said the OAS was currently implementing a cultural heritage programme in Barbados and other parts of the region, seeking to see how cultural heritage could become a viable economic resource.
“We must renew our commitment to pluralism, openness, inclusion and reaffirm our commitment to end exclusion. The shift towards isolationism where individuals and communities retreat into what they know and who they know, is something we should also resist,” Robert advised.