Barbados rebranding as a ‘centre of excellence’ destination
BARBADOS?IS?KNOWN for its moderate and agreeable climate, well-established and stable political environment, sound and comprehensive educational foundation, and high level of intellectual capital per capita.
Barbados has evolved from a state of affairs where two-thirds of its land mass was cultivated under sugar cane to a position today where “King Sugar” has been dethroned and sugar cane is currently produced on less than one-fifth of the island.
Over the last 50 years, tourism and financial services have emerged to replace the declining commodity sugar industry. The Barbados rum industry is still thriving.
Barbados is currently in search of a new modality through which to sustain and increase its socio-economic well-being.
The growth rate of the population has remained stable partially because of the high level of migration, not only at the lower echelons of society where individuals responded to a need to fill jobs in developed countries, but many people who have achieved excellence academically have also departed the island in search of higher education, some never to return.
Many countries in the world, including Barbados, claim that they have no natural resources and hence, are at a disadvantage when compared with other countries rich in mineral reserves.
What Barbados does have is its people and, as is said in Singapore, “our people are our greatest resource – we must develop them to the fullest”.
Relatively recently the world has rapidly evolved through an agricultural revolution, an industrial revolution, a knowledge revolution, and in Barbados we are now very conscious about the need to embark on an entrepreneurial revolution to enhance the chances of our survival.
Potential for entrepreneurs
Our vision is to respond not only to the needs of global entrepreneurs who are seeking a favourable entrepreneurial development climate, but also to inculcate in the minds of the youngest Barbadians the potential for entrepreneurial pursuits as an alternative to the traditional avenues of economic activity.
Indeed, the E-Team, a group of ten local and international volunteers, has established the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation to engage in the “moon shot” revolution to promote Barbados to be the No. 1 entrepreneurial hub in the world by 2020.
The economy of Barbados was stagnating even before the most recent world economic crisis. There have been some attempts to diversify its major industry by diversifying the tourism marketing strategy to recognise that the centre of gravity of wealth has moved from West to East over the last 50 years.
We, therefore, expect to see a shifting profile of the distribution of our tourists as this strategy unfolds. Of course, the gap in our service levels when viewed against the international standard will have to be reduced significantly in keeping with this new thrust.
A government’s ability to provide services for its populace is, to a large extent, based on its ability to raise revenue through taxation.
Taxation primarily comes directly from the profits of business enterprises (corporation tax) and from the earnings of individuals employed or self-employed (income tax). Other taxes such as value-added tax, land and property tax and import duty come from the activity of corporations and individuals as they purchase property, local and imported goods and services.The focus should therefore be to create an entrepreneurial culture – that is, a national environment which facilitates the rapid growth of business enterprises.
The success of business enterprises depends on the strength of the business environment as measured by the support pillars which are put in place. These support pillars include availability of appropriate financial instruments, Government policy, business facilitation, a talent pool, and shepherding/mentoring.
Without enterprise development there will be little or no growth and low taxation. With enterprise development, taxation increases, services increase, and so does socio-economic well-being.
Barbados is, therefore, looking to the global market to encourage entrepreneurs to register their businesses in Barbados and entrepreneurs whose businesses are already registered in Barbados to garner market share in the global marketplace.
There are a number of centres of excellence which are now emerging. The first is this global entrepreneurial hub which will celebrate its journey to 2020 through an annual interactive dialogue and awards ceremony in Barbados starting in November 2010.
This will grow from an initial focus on entrepreneurial activity in Barbados and gradually expand by inviting entrepreneurs from the Caribbean and other emerging nations to participate and receive awards for their excellence.
This avalanche or, indeed, positive tsunami of entrepreneurial activity will be the forerunner for the revitalization of the Bridgetown, Barbados Brand which is being promoted by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry as a centre of excellence.
Other centres of excellence which will follow include duty-free shopping, water desalination, health tourism, sports tourism, tourism services, modern agricultural systems, luxury branding, a lifestyle centre, cultural tourism (a melting pot of food, film, fashion, music, drama and art), history and heritage tourism, quick response seed and venture capital funds, innovative educational systems and renewable energy systems.
The entrepreneurial revolution is, therefore, expected to transform Barbados into a magnetic environment which will not only motivate its own people, but will attract entrepreneurs from all over the world to seek excellence and fortune within our shores.
Dr Basil Springer is change-engine consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc.
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