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FIRING LINE: A few good things

Shantal Munro-Knight

FIRING LINE: A few good things

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I think that perhaps we could all use a bit of good news. At least I could. The economic situation is depressing; there is no way to put a good spin on the recent downgrade. Outside of this, key agencies seem not to be working. The Transport Board is in crisis,
the garbage collection system seems to be in chaos, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is clearly under strain and there seems to be no answer to the ongoing spate of domestic violence.
Instead of ranting about all that is going wrong (this column is called Firing Line so I’m well within my rights to rant and rave), I thought that I would instead try to focus on some things that are going right or which, at least, seem to provide glimmers of hope among all that’s going wrong.
I must say that I am indeed impressed with some groups within the private sector. I see a level of innovation in marketing that demonstrates they understand the current economic environment and appreciate that different strategies are needed to capture the consumer.
I heard an advertisement for a bank that is making loans via Skype, another company is allowing the consumer to stay home and goes to them and also offers a more affordable product.
I note that companies are still investing, expanding their businesses and showing a continual level of confidence in the local economy, which is heartening. Perhaps this is exactly what we need to wean the private sector off Government handouts and concessions.
With no large-scale concessions from Government, the private sector has to depend on its own mojo to survive in a highly competitive environment of depressed consumer spending. Oops, sorry, Government has none to give except to large groups like Sandals, of course.
This notwithstanding, it is good to see the private sector showing some level of testicular fortitude and actually getting on like a thinking private sector.   
The Barbados Economic Society (BES) seems to have re-evaluated its role as only responding to questions from the media and is set to host what I hope is a productive and forward-looking panel discussion on Repositioning The Barbados Economy. I do hope members are able to move away from the spiffy catchphrases and traditional responses that just repeat what we already know and actually provide some solid solutions.
With the number of highly qualified people in this country, it is about time that we put our heads together outside the realm of politics and just engage in good thinking. Of course, the issue will be how the solutions are acted upon. I would applaud them mightily if they were able to get Government to listen (or fall down from the surprise).
It is clearly time for solutions; the bellyaching and problem analysis are not going to move us forward. The Government cannot rely on its own narrow frame of reference. It is time, not for national dialogue, but rather a national action plan (deliberately ignoring the last set of budgetary measures).
I’m looking forward to other initiatives like the BES’, which will hopefully move us beyond the talk shops to innovative and action-oriented solutions.
I do not know if many of you picked up the story on the Caribbean Audio Video Institute which is set to open its doors in March. The institute, it is reported, will offer City and Guilds certification in areas related to audio and video production.
I am totally excited by this. It appears to be an independent initiative which, if successful, will undoubtedly open up new opportunities in the creative industries sector. More importantly, it should provide avenues for those with the creative genes to thrive and develop certification in areas that were once thought of as peripheral and lacking in professional rigour.
Now if the Government said that it would provide concessions to such an initiative, I would not complain. This is where we should be putting our efforts; in new areas with long-term potential for growth. Alas, our five-year election cycle lacks sufficient incentive for long-term growth strategies as opposed to short-term quick fixes.       
Finally, I want to give kudos to all of those social organizations which, despite the economic times, remain committed to helping others. Often when we bemoan the declining moral values and traditional mores of the society we overlook that at the very heart of it Bajan society is a very caring and responsive one. We hate to see suffering and are very quick to help.
Moreover, I want to give kudos to the church; because churches do not make a song and dance does not mean they are not working. I would put my last dollar that a large majority of the philanthropic groups doing good work in the society are either directly church-led or led by people motivated by Christian values.  
A few good things, let’s hope they continue.
• Shantal Munro-Knight is a development specialist and executive coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre.