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From red tape to red carpet – a regional account

Calvin Husbands, labour management advisor

From red tape to red carpet – a regional account

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Several private sector stakeholders have stated on multiple occasions that investment and business activities will not be not be maximised unless there is effective facilitation by the public sector.

Such a position has often been echoed by players within the international business arena.

Against that backdrop it was quite enlightening to hear of the efforts being spearheaded in business facilitation in Trinidad and Tobago by Senator Vasant Bharath, Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications.

Senator Bharath’s account was made in an address entitled Successful Strategies for Turbulent Economic Times – The Trinidad and Tobago Experience, which was delivered at a business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In this article I explore some key points and lessons learnt for effective business facilitation.

Review national performance in relation to global standards and metrics – In order to know what level of improvement is necessary, you need to know how you are performing in relation to others in the marketplace.

Even if you are leading the competition, it is important to know the gap between you and your closest rival.

Bharath asserted that countries seeking to compete in the international business arena should benchmark themselves against standards such as the World Bank Group’s Doing Business survey, which rates the conduciveness of a jurisdiction’s regulatory environment to the starting and operation of a local firm.

Ensure strategic will – In the pursuit of rigorous and sustained performance there must be an inspiring articulation of purpose, ongoing scrutiny of results and unwavering commitment to improvement from the highest level within the institution.

Change interventions are unlikely to benefit from the necessary traction where leaders appear to lack resolve.

Bring key stakeholders together – A business leader said that “sometimes you don’t want consensus but just alignment” to reveal that bringing stakeholders together may not necessarily achieve absolute agreement but it should at least solidify the purpose and approach that is deemed necessary by the strategic leader after such consultation.

Highlight the contribution of each stakeholder to the effectiveness of the overall system – Commitment is more likely where people gain a sense of value from an understanding of the contribution that they can potentially make to effectiveness.

Sometimes the biggest hindrance to empowerment is a lack of awareness of one’s value to the big picture.

Ensure analysis and improvement of the systems – It has been said “what gets measured gets done”.

In order to improve systems it is necessary to clearly understand their current and future suitability vis à vis current and future requirements.

Leverage technology – Technology should be strategically selected and used to facilitate the operational and knowledge-creation processes, which are used to pursue current and future organisational objectives.

Technology in itself is not a panacea or ‘silver bullet’ that automatically makes the institution world class, rather it requires a fundamental assessment of customer requirements, competitor activities and internal competencies.

Create legal and other frameworks to facilitate business activity – In a global environment characterised by rapid and often far-reaching change, investors can be attracted to and find solace in knowing that they can invest in a jurisdiction where there is inter alia clarity of regulatory processes, institutional responsiveness, legal certainty and various means of effectively addressing disputes.

The challenge lies in balancing the need for what Bharath defines as a shift “from red tape to red carpet” with the traditionally tempered legal, regulatory and other frameworks that have facilitated the stability for which Barbados is known.

Pursue larger markets via strategic partnerships and trade agreements – Bharath believes that a country should not reinvent the wheel but should work with other jurisdictions and/or entities that have superior experience and contacts, which can be mutually beneficial.

Leverage research – It is necessary to identify the characteristics and needs of potential markets.

If you are inadequately aware of the current and potential context in which you operate, it is more difficult to plan and execute the appropriate initiatives.

Do the best that you can with the talents and uniqueness that you possess – Dale Carnegie advised that a person should unearth his/her abilities and uniqueness; should avoid pretending to be someone else; and should seek to be the best self that he/she can be.

By extension, a jurisdiction should seek to unearth and capitalise upon its unique strengths so that it can provide a quality, valued and distinctive experience to entities with which it currently or prospectively conducts business.