THE ISSUE: Higher output the main objective
BARBADOS PRIDES ITSELF on having a highly educated population and workforce. Over the years, for many Barbadians, schooling from primary to tertiary level has been a way out of poverty, and a source of economic enfranchisement.
Beyond that, however, is an issue of human resource development, including ensuring that paper qualifications translate into workers who are efficient and productive. This also extends to the fortunate minority of the overall working population who are appointed to managerial posts.
But there is a wider debate on human resource development which has been taking place globally, especially in the last eight years of economic difficulty. It has to do with the role this area can play in spurring economic growth and development. It is an area that Barbados has been focussing on, as illustrated by the fact that Government has developed and is now implementing a Human Resource Development Strategy 2011-2016, largely with funding from the European Union (EU).
The strategy “stands on five pillars of strategic intervention, namely: creation of an enabling environment for human resource development through institutional strengthening and capacity building; development of an internationally recognised national qualifications framework; development of demand driven professional development and training services; rationalisation of knowledge management systems and improved information access; and enhancement of research to improve innovation, entrepreneurship and development capacity.
The importance of linking human resource development to economic growth is not new and has been examined over the years. One example of this is Nigeria where Olusegun Richard Daisi of the Lagos State Polytechnic produced a paper on the topic: The Impact Of Human Resource Development On Economic Growth In Nigeria: An Empirical Investigation (1902-2008).
Daisi concluded that “human capital formation, measured by investment in physical capital, is a good predictor of economic growth”.
“Based on the result, it is therefore recommended that government should increase its expenditure on education, health, and other social and economic infrastructure that will enhance the productivity capacity of labour.
“Furthermore, an attempt should also be made to restructure the educational system to meet the challenges of the society, provide adequate incentives in terms of job opportunities, enhance wage structure and improve working conditions to individuals as well as provision of stable macroeconomic environment that will encourage increased investment in education and training by the organised private sector, religious bodies and individuals,” the report added.
On March 5, 2008 a presentation was made to the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP)-EU Economic and Social Interest Group in Brussels. It was made by Brenda King, member of the ACP-EU Follow-up Committee and Eric Osei, senior economic development manager, London Development Agency.
They said human resource development was “a key driver and component of economic development”, and that it “leads to a number of social and economic benefits including jobs, reduction in poverty, increased standard of living and better quality of life, and a better civil society”. The researchers also concluded that “development of people in developing countries is more conducive to economic development than investment in physical infrastructure”.
To ensure that Barbados and other ACP members pursued economic policies inclusive of a focus on human resource development, King and Osei said each ACP government should “guarantee free and compulsory education for all, implement a plan to make this reality, spend adequate amounts on education”. They said that “at least 20 per cent of what the government spends on services should be on education”.
Prominent Barbadian academic and economist Professor Andrew Downes has also delved into the issue from the point of view of employment and overall development in the labour market.
In a 2007 paper, he said: “Recent studies of the economic growth and development process have emphasized the critical role of human capital in achieving high rates of output growth, reducing unemployment and poverty and enhancing social development.
“For small developing countries, like those in the Caribbean, the existence of limited natural resources means that emphasis must be placed on human resources development in national development strategy formulation. Human resources development refers to the enhancement of the skills, knowledge and competencies of the population so that the workforce can contribute meaningfully to the national development process.”
In March, as he received what was then the latest tranche of funding from the EU, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said the intention of the human resources management strategy was to “address a number of issues in relation to skills building, the expansion of knowledge, the integration of different types of skills across applications within the [public] service and beyond] and . . . to chart a new platform for emerging areas within our economy”.