Owen: Solution lies in smart communities
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has called for the Warrens to UWI corridor to be developed as the island’s first smart community, laying the foundation to transform the stagnant economy on pillars of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.
Arthur spoke on the topic Smart Can Be Small yesterday morning during the final day of Innovate Barbados 2017 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. He said the Science Department of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill would be the link to the global technological community.
During the presentation, Arthur said the Barbados economy could no longer rely on preferential tax agreements, protectionism and subsidies to drive growth as those were “fully depreciated assets” which could send the island into “an economic cul-de-sac”.
Instead, the former minister of finance suggested the island had to reposition itself to be part of the fourth industrial revolution, which was seeing rapid advances in technology.
He warned that Barbados would fail if it did not make this change, and he cited the devastating impact that NAFTA and the World Trade Organisation had on manufacturing. Services were also in danger of being left behind and not even tourism was safe, he said.
“Faced with such challenges in sustaining economic activity in both the traditional and the newer sectors of its economy, Barbados has come to depend to an extraordinary degree on the dynamism of its tourism industry to carry the burden of generating growth and development,” Arthur said.
But he said tourism did not generate the types of jobs commensurate with the level of investment Barbados made in tertiary education, leading to an estimated 80 per cent of graduates seeking employment abroad. He said Barbados couldn’t afford not to invest in the education of its people, only for them to contribute to the development of other countries.
Instead, the island already ranked high in international technology readiness and penetration and protection of intellectual property rights. The telecommunications sector had been liberalised, the education system transformed and programmes put in place for the alternative energy sector.
Arthur said the move to smart communities and focus on technology and innovation would create “a new class of indigenous international businessmen” who could sell their services on the global market and Barbados’ economy would not be foreign-driven or dependent on tax treaties. (SAT)