A new frame of mind
Over the last few weeks, indeed months, the focus of this article has changed from analysis of the Government’s economic mismanagement to outlining a framework for rescuing Government’s finances, restoring economic growth and rebuilding confidence.
To date, it has been suggested that in designing the overall architecture for the Barbados economy, it is important to harmonize the competing needs of the public and private sectors; to emphasize the most pressing short-term goals; to balance these goals with the country’s long-term development perspective and to be aware of the rhythm of external influences.
This week, the article moves away from dealing with the framework for a new Barbados economy to the frame of mind required to achieve the new economy and society. In doing so, we should bear in mind a singular observation made about greatness: it has not yet been achieved in more than one discipline by one person. So specialization is critical and for a country could be more broad-based.
For all his talent, it would have been impossible for Sir Garfield Sobers to be a great golfer and cricketer in his lifetime. In similar vein, Pele could never have been a great basketballer and a great footballer. And finally William Shakespeare the playwright would have found it impossible to be Johann Bach. There is something about greatness that is selfish, in the sense that whatever the discipline, it demands time, talent and a gift of mental toughness.
There are people who know a little about a lot of things for which they are admired; but they are unlikely to change the world or more realistically their country. Such persons do not strive to change the wheels that are in motion; they simply enjoy being part of the process.
There are people who know a lot about a few things, for which they are scorned; but they are more likely to change the world or their country. Such persons are more inclined to change the wheels that are in motion; they live for change as reflected in their focus.
Unfortunately, Barbados’ educational system has been built to produce those who know a little about a lot of things. Therefore, change must start with the system. There is a need for a very basic education as a platform for specialization. Knowing about old Greek philosophers and the like is not basic in today’s world as it was in the colonial days. Such information can be googled!
Basic education ought therefore no longer to be about who can quote Shakespeare or is familiar with Bach, but rather is now about problem solving. It is all about relevance! My daughter, who is as much a Barbados scholar as anyone who did classics in the past, like most young people, has little or no interest in Chaucer or Virgil.
No disrespect, but times have changed! Fortunately, in today’s world the system does not allow the hierarchy to sit on thrones and dictate the social and economic order. As a result the market, for the most part, determines relevance through a fairer value though not ideal.
In the same way that great individuals have had to specialize, great countries are required to do the same. Indeed, for all of its boast about greatness, the United States has found out that it knows a lot about a lot of things without being the specialist and is therefore struggling to prove that it is the “only great” in a new world.
In the meantime, countries thought to be of less worth have made considerable strides because they are great for something, not necessarily a lot of things.
Part of the acceptance of this new mindset would require that leaders/bosses understand their limits and encourage others who are specialists to function within a clearly defined vision conceived by the organization or the country.
As far back as the mid-1980s, a colleague of mine, Peter Whitehall, started to talk about a services economy for Barbados. The point is that such an intellectual pursuit at the time required the full support of an institution that was ideally placed to put the resources behind exploiting the idea of making Barbados a services economy.
To pursue greatness requires an individual or a country to focus on something/s. Of the issues raised in this column over the months, for now that something appears to be alternative energy for Barbados.
• Clyde Mascoll is an economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party spokesman on the economy. Email [email protected]