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AS I SEE THINGS: Shining example of thinking outside the box


Brian Francis

AS I SEE THINGS: Shining example of thinking outside the box

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Since the 2007-08 global financial and economic crisis, countries local, regional and across the world have been calling for fresh thinking to generate solutions to the burning problems that are now plaguing economies worldwide.
Specifically, our leaders, academics and other well-meaning citizens all around the globe are suggesting that there is a clear need for all and sundry to start thinking “outside the box” in order to come up with ingenious and pioneering solutions to the problems facing individual nations. And indeed, there are good examples of this in several parts of the global landscape, the Caribbean being no different.
For example, I have been championing the call for regional economies to become more diversified, not necessarily in terms of shifting resources away from agriculture or manufacturing to travel and tourism or international business, but by focusing on within-sector diversification.
In that regard, the service industry stands as a solid foundation for such a strategy.
Indeed, under the visionary leadership of Sir Hilary Beckles, principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean are being exposed to what precisely can happen by way of meaningful diversification within our service industries in a manner that is definitely sustainable.
In essence, Sir Hilary Beckles is now fully engaged in an effort to reduce the university’s dependence on financial resources from the Government of Barbados by putting in place strategies to attract more and more students from outside its traditional source markets.  
This strategy is a clear reflection of the tremendous benefits that can accrue to the university and by extension the Barbadian economy by exporting our educational services globally.
But more importantly, the direction in which the university is now heading should be seen as a shining example of thinking outside the box that involves diversification within our service industry with educational services playing a more prominent role.
And what is interesting in this regard is the immediate forward and backward linkages that can easily be forged between educational services and other key sectors/industries of the economy such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing and tourism.
No doubt the focus on educational services is well placed. Official statistics show that in the case of China, for example, over 2.2 million Chinese students have received graduate training overseas in the past few years. Additionally, there are currently over 1.1 million Chinese students studying in foreign universities.
On the basis of those statistics alone, there is clearly a huge external market that our countries can tap into to support the export of our educational services and by extension diversification within our service industries.
Once more, we have identified an area of economic activity that can make a huge difference in Caribbean citizens’ quality of life.
The main ingredient for success is simply effective leadership. Sir Hilary Beckles is indisputably demonstrating this quality as an educational leader. Can’t our political and business leaders do likewise?

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