A new book telling the story of Barbados’ post-independence development from the perspective of industrialist Ralph Bizzy Williams and his Williams Industries has been launched, with the author issuing a challenge to other Barbadian entrepreneurs.
As he launched the over 400-page biography, Working to Build A Stronger Nation, at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill on Thursday, historian Dr Henderson Carter encouraged entrepreneurs to take a leaf out of the 81-year-old magnate’s book and document their success and challenges.
The author highlighted the scarcity of literature on Barbados’ infrastructural development after 1966 and cited specific examples from the book, such as the transformation of Port St Charles from a cow pasture to a luxurious port.
“And the story goes that the government officials did not want to ok this,” said Dr Carter, “but now, of course, it has come to fruition, lots of money can be made, lots of money have been made. Employment has been generated and it has transformed the place aesthetically from a little cow pasture to a very luxurious port. And I think this is what this book is about. It is about the development of Barbados after Independence.”
Carter underscored the importance of development, innovation, and government support, noting the impact of joint ventures, including Williams Industries’ involvement in desalination for the national water supply collaboration with Ionics, Inc. in Boston.
He emphasised that such partnerships often go unnoticed, but they contribute significantly to the nation’s progress.
“A lot of people don’t know that Mr Williams has joined many other companies and that speaks to the importance of joint ventures…. One of them is Ionics from Boston which provides water for this area here at Cave Hill, and water for the West Coast as well. A lot of people don’t even know this. So this is how the company is building a stronger nation. It is not just for Mr Williams himself and his board. It is for Barbados and most of all, as Mr Williams has said, it is for the workers who also benefit,” Carter said.
The biography also provides a comprehensive account of both failures and triumphs, offering readers a nuanced perspective on the development journey, according to the historian who is head of the history and philosophy department in the UWI’s Faculty of Humanities and Education.
Among the stories of failure is the REDJet fiasco, Williams’ involvement in the shortlived island-hopping jet airline.
“In my view, it is a complete package where things went badly and then there were triumphs as well,” Dr Carter said.
Proceeds from the book’s sales will be dedicated to funding scholarships for UWI Cave Hill students.
Williams expressed his hope that the book would sell over a thousand copies, and disclosed there were plans to provide it in ebook format for wider accessibility.
“I would like to have it set out for Kindle,” Williams said. “If it can be done I would prefer it [that way]. If it takes off and the idea takes root, we could bring some money back to Barbados.” (RG)