Future lies with entrepreneurs
A “learning society”, not tourism, is the future of the Barbados economy. A prominent American economics professor who has taught at the University of the West Indies thinks Barbados’ tourism industry is past its best and will neither “revisit its halcyon days” nor “generate high growth rates in the future”.
Instead, said, Jay R. Mandle, the W. Bradford Wiley Professor of Economics, at Colgate University in New York, Barbados should move to develop a cadre of new black Barbadian entrepreneurs, “fill its domestic technical knowledge gap” by encouraging and rewarding Barbadians living in the diaspora to make their human capital available to Barbados-based firms.
Mandle, who specialises in economic development and economic theory, and has pursued in interests in economic globalisation and Caribbean economic development, recently published a paper titled A Modern Barbados Economy. It was submitted to the Central Bank’s annual review seminar in July and in August was presented at a conference in Trinidad.
For years people in and out of Barbados have suggested that the island should puruse the “Singapore model”, but Mandle said Barbados would better off emulating Iceland’s “technologically advanced economy” model, partly because the two countries had similar sized populations.
He said a focus on tourism would not take Barbados much further economically.
“The problem is that tourism, like tropical agriculture, does not stimulate learning. Success in the industry involves using labour and capital in ways that do not resemble their utilization in technologically advanced industries. As such, tourism resides in a product space that is all but barren,” he said.
“For a high productivity, technologically advanced economy to merge in Barbados, the Government will have to take the initiative in constructing a collaborative effort involving the public sector, business community and the labour force. The objective will be encouraging the establishment of new productive enterprises that generate high levels of spin-offs.”
Mandle said the problem was that “Barbados is too small to create a learning society if production is confined to domestic consumption”, and that “if the development effort is to be successful, Barbados firms and industries will have to compete successfully in the global economy”.
“Modernising Barbados’ structure of production requires upgrading Barbados’ business managerial class, a process can be accomplished despite the country’s small size by broadening the demographic composition of its entrepreneurial class at home while gaining access to the Barbados talent that resides abroad.”
“The local business community’s limited familiarity with modern production techniques and marketing means that it is not likely to produce the kind of transformation that country needs. It is therefore likely that for Barbados to become a learning society, a new stratum of entrepreneurs will have to be cultivated.”