KNOWLEDGE AS AN ASSET
"In no other area is the difference greater between manual-worker productivity and knowledge-worker productivity than in their respective economics. Economic theory and most business practice see manual workers as a cost. To be productive knowledge workers must be considered a capital asset Costs need to be controlled and reduced. Assets need to be made to grow - Extract from Peter Drucker's book „Management Challenges for the 21st century".
Grenada is currently undergoing a devastating experience. The country, communities, families and individuals have been severely dislocated. A major rehabilitation exercise has to be undertaken and even though we may not get much empathy now from those directly involved, but when viewed five years later, this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The international and regional communities have responded very positively with aid to assist with Grenada‚s rehabilitation, the success of which will no doubt depend on the care which is taken in planning the rehabilitation process.
Obviously, there is some immediate need to literally provide shelter over the heads of all Grenadians, to focus on the repair of the major utilities e.g. water, electricity and communications services and to quickly restore health, education, solid waste management, security and other services. Food and clothing seem to be arriving in abundance but the question remains „What is going to be Grenada's economy of the future?
This has to be the subject of strategic thinking for Grenada in terms of sunrise‚ industries which will contribute to sustainable development. The traditional industries for Grenada which were primarily agriculture, tourism, education and sports would all have taken a serious blow. Tourism hotel plant could be up and running within a year whereas the agricultural revival would be of a longer term nature. The sports and education facilities could be rehabilitated within two years, provided the appropriate financial resources required can be procured. I do not want to pre-judge the issue but the sunrise industries could include tourism linkage, agriculture linkage, ICT, health, education and renewable energy related services.
The traditional factors of production are manpower, materials and money, but the advent of the information age which is manifested by an information and communications technology revolution, has heralded a fourth factor of production i.e. knowledge. All of the abovementioned proposed sunrise industries are knowledge based and even in the best of times all countries are paying some attention to the development of knowledge as an asset. Grenada now has the opportunity to plan the development of its new economy on the basis of this knowledge or intellectual capital resource.
I have seen responses from the Prime Minister of Grenada to offers of assistance from international agencies and his view is that these agencies should use their judgment in deciding what assistance should be begin since in the circumstances of Grenada almost anything would be useful. Even though we can empathise with the urgency of this response in the face of utter devastation, a strategic approach has to be adopted in parallel with the immediate rehabilitation issues.
I would certainly propose that a number of brainstorming sessions which would include not only Grenadians, but members of the regional and international community, should be convened to clearly delineate the opportunities available and to come up with strategic alternatives for the sustainable development of Grenada. The natural coastland and inland beauty of Grenada can be retrieved, thus the basic ingredients for a revived tourism sector can be processed to add value. We may even have something as innovative as help rebuild Grenada‚ holidays.
We can certainly seek assistance in developing appropriate tourism services to enhance the product. Tourism sports linkages are also a possibility as are tourism agricultural linkages. There are niche opportunities in the ICT industry which Grenada can carve out for itself and certainly the general nature of the climate of Grenada may also provide opportunities in the rehabilitative heath services sector. The St. Georges University has set an example as to what is possible in the education sector. The whole world of renewable energy, solar and wind energy in particular, is a major opportunity, particularly with the threat of escalating oil prices in the light of global political disturbances. Grenada could become a centre for renewable energy.
Grenada could reposition itself to be a leader in small states around the world. All of this however requires in addition to strategic thinking a well structured programme designed to develop the knowledge base of Grenada which can be done through technology driven education systems from the primary to the tertiary levels.
The knowledge-worker may well undertake manual work but the manual-worker is unlikely to make any significant contribution to knowledge industries. An important strategy, therefore, is to convert manual-workers to knowledge-workers through an aggressive educational process.
Last week I heard indirectly of a comment attributed to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. He was concerned about the future of small independent states‚ in the new globalised environment. Grenada‚s misfortune and the current focus on a CSME, may very well provide a platform on which to build the best regional solution for the Caribbean consistent with our overall capability.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) - http://www.cbet-inc.org