Barbados and the rest of the region are running out of time to build more resilient economies “for the sake of current and future generations”. The effort will require a multisectoral approach with major inputs from the business community.
This assessment has come from President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Gene Leon, who called for a revisit of the “fundamental roles and responsibilities in economic development” in light of the massive disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Simply put, we need a new deal,” Leon told the gathering at the launch of the Business and Management Research Think Tank (BMRTT) and the Business Roundtable Forum at the Cave Hill School of Business and Management (CHSBM) on Friday.
“Time is against us, and we cannot foresee or predict the next big upheaval. However, we can prepare for it by building resilient businesses, institutions, social systems, and economies. The private sector has perhaps the most pivotal role to play in that process. For the sake of current and future generations, let’s forge a new deal,” he insisted.
The BMRTT is an agreement between the CHSBM and the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) and the Business Roundtable Forum is an agreement between the CHSBM and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).
The deals between the learning institution and the business community are designed to guide research and innovation that can influence the business environment and lead to the reform of industries.
Welcoming the new agreements, the CDB head said private enterprises had a major role to play in the delivery of sustainable development outcomes.
“Sustainable development is really about improving the quality of life and capabilities of the Caribbean people by utilising our resources in a manner that achieves current objectives without compromising the prospects of future generations,” said Leon.
“Sustainable Development is not ‘my business’, you may argue. I am therefore calling on you to re-engineer your mindsets about who is responsible for what. The basis of my appeal is simple – sustainable development is too important for it to be the exclusive purview of our governments,” he told the audience, which included some of the island’s key private sector players.
“Profitability and development are not incompatible. On the contrary, private enterprise should apply the ingenuity, innovation, entrepreneurial drive and goal-oriented approach employed in commercial pursuits to national and regional development,” said Leon.
He noted that in order to achieve sustainable development the building of a “resilient ecosystem” was needed – “one that encompasses all dimensions of resilience including social, financial, environmental, institutional, and productive capacity resilience.
“In doing so, our areas of focus and facilitation include food and nutrition security, energy security, climate security, education and skills development, social protection, digital transformation and economic diversification,” he said.
“Development has to be a shared responsibility, one where individual stakeholder egos are subordinated through the notion that development of the whole will always imply development for all,” he added.
The economist called for a re-imagining of how private-public partnerships were viewed in the region, stating that “the public-private partnership or PPP as we know it, will remain constrained in raising its effectiveness”.
“That was a mechanism for yesterday. We need solutions for tomorrow. Let me invite you to re-imagine PPP. What prevents us from reframing PPPs as partnerships for prosperity and profits?
“When you drill down on the areas of focus and anticipated impacts of the sustainable development agenda, they speak to the very heart of your business objectives. Programmes that enhance education and improve skills development will create a knowledge-oriented workforce with the extensive skills base necessary for industries of the future. That’s sustainability,” he said. (MM)