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A vision for Barbados

Peter N. Boos

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Barbados has an excellent global lifestyle brand. We must now build on that great asset to develop our business brand.
Our economy is floundering, as characterized by a stressed national balance sheet and bureaucracy (debt, deficits and delay), high unemployment, depressed business profits, shallow economic sector and markets diversification, weak exports, soft foreign direct investment, high costs of land and construction. This all adds up to an economy that is underperforming.
Below are some big ideas to ponder and plan to achieve. None of them depends on recovery of the global economy and we can work on them immediately.
1. Much faster and sustainable economic growth is what we need to get jobs and foreign exchange expanding.
In addition, the size, cost and productivity of the public sector must all be tackled now. We have ignored this for too long.
Vision: Create the No. 1 civil service in the world.
Structural reforms are required to deliver the right result. What steps would be needed and how long would it take? Selling underutilized Government property to pay some of the transition cost is sensible.
Civil servants must be empowered to make decisions and their compensation linked to performance measurement.
2. We must invest heavily in information communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and competencies and put Barbados at the heart of the new age economies.
Making Barbados the most advanced ICT country in the Caribbean by 2020 should be our vision.
An ICT think tank should be created to help guide policy and determine investment priorities. Piers Linney, a British-based half-Bajan, is a good candidate to help; he is a successful entrepreneur in cloud computing.
There are many others with the knowledge who want to help.
Dr Cardinal Ward at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is another resource we can tap.
Get the brightest and best brains involved and working as a team.
We must also target global ICT entrepreneurs to make Barbados their home base. We need to research what they would need to make the commitment to relocate.
3. Vision: Barbados – the greenest island in the world by 2020.
Alternative energy is vital for sustainability and to reduce business cost and foreign exchange usage.
4. Vision: Barbados – the easiest country in which to do business by 2015.
We need to be bold and tackle the bureaucracies that stifle business expansion in a global marketplace. Immigration, Town Planning, CAIPO [Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office], the judicial system and so on are early priorities.
5. Vision: New sectors for investment and policy prioritization (all focused on global markets).
 Education: Barbados – the education centre of the Americas – language centre, secondary and tertiary and vocational sectors (music, culinary, and so on).
 Health/Medicine: Barbados – the medical mecca of the Americas – treatment and research.
 The arts and heritage: visual, culinary, music, dance, voice, literary, and so on). International conferences, schools, and so on.
 Sports-tourism: (events, conferences) and education and research.
 Professional services: serving global niche markets – legal, teaching, accounting, engineering, architecture, construction.
 Global services hub for lifestyle industries (for example, asset management) and corporate headquarters.
We must also do more business with Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. These market opportunities need to be researched by Invest Barbados in partnership with private sector investors.
6. Vision: Land use policy – develop one for the future that embraces agriculture and green energy.
We can’t afford for land to remain idle in a small country where land is a scarce resource and we are a solar haven.
It will be impossible to transform and grow the Barbados economy without fully embracing the global economy. We must be willing and able to compete globally. Therefore, we must:
(a) eliminate exchange controls.
(b) create an immigration policy to attract international entrepreneurs and their families to Barbados (this can be achieved with a strategic and sector specific strategy that will help develop indigenous sector entrepreneurs).
This will bring foreign direct investment, skills and export markets, and will create jobs and critical industry clusters.
(c) reform the legal justice system – Vision No. 1 in the Americas.
We also must find a private sector-driven solution to the South Coast hotels that are closed or on the brink.
With all of this we must establish clear performance benchmarks and measure and report performance regularly.
If we pursue the above visionary plan for Barbados and put in place the long-term structures to facilitate execution, Barbadians can look forward to having an economy that grows rapidly and is sustainable. Wealth will be created for all and social stability will be maintained.
7. Vision: Barbados, the most successful small nation in the world – as measured by gross domestic product per capita, happiness, health, stability, full employment, social justice, housing, security and so on.
Let’s determine the measures that matter to Bajans (we did it in the Cricket World Cup Legacy Plan in 2007).
What is stopping us? Certainly not the global recession.
• Peter N. Boos is chairman of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation.

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