2006 Will Be An Exciting Year Politically & Economically!!!

This article appeared in the Weekend Voice Newspaper in St. Lucia, 7/1/06


The year 2006 will be an exciting one and here I am to wish my many readers who have missed my articles in the local newspapers for over a year, a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous 2006. I have heeded your call to return and I welcome you to have the ride of your life as my optimism spills over into 2006. May 2006 be your best year ever.
I have been accused of many things, including being a perpetual optimist but no one can say I have failed to try. I have almost seen it all and I have been used and abused by many heartless people who masquerade as ethical Entrepreneurs but let us put it all to experience and it is my hope that you will learn from my mistakes.
What is all the excitement about? Let me begin by saying that although the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) is a work in progress, it is very much a reality today. I am very excited about this reality and it is for the Entrepreneurs of the region to make it succeed within the established frame work and deliver as per the expectations of all of the people of the community. The most important expectation is that this initiative will energise our Entrepreneurs to realize their full potential by operating on a scale that would propel their businesses locally, regionally and internationally.
I awoke on January 1, 2006 in a mindset that I have embraced for a long time. My writings on the subject of the CSME (www.stluciasimplybeautiful.com) is very clear on the direction that it will take us and the challenges that will force us to be proficient in all areas of our businesses. Competitiveness, Partnerships, Strategic Alliances, Globalisation, Transition, and the many other popular buzz words which have emerged over the years will have to be translated into action. We talk a lot about level playing field. No matter how level is the playing field, there will always be the need for the necessary support in bringing the proposition to the market. There must be a deliberate attempt to put creativity and innovation on a sound footing as it is very strange phenomenon that people with the ideas are seldom the people with the money. In America and other developed countries there are Investment Angels, Venture Capitalists, Merchant Banks, Small Business Loan Agencies, etc. We are still to have these sources.
I had the privilege of attending a seminar hosted by the Cultural Development Foundation and the National Development Corporation a few weeks ago which was addressed by some overseas based successful black Caribbean Entrepreneurs in the music industry. I was impressed with the several presentations but at the end of the session, I asked myself a simple question – why is it our local musicians are not making the breakthrough given the talent that is available? I should not have had to search for the answer but sometimes you have to dig deep for simple answers. The answer is simple they just do not get the support that is needed to convert a hobby into a business. Some years ago I made the point that agriculture will continue to decline because Entrepreneurs are just not interested, not even in hobby farms. My conclusion is if anything is going to be commercially viable, it must be given the entrepreneurial stimulus. Music is no different. It is interesting also to note that the support of the media in the development of our people is paramount. This past Christmas holiday season I did not listen much to the radio but the few times I tuned into the stations I am still to hear the Christmas songs of our local artistes. The same could be said about local calypsoes, after carnival what? We are left to listen to the Trinidadian and Barbadian calypsoes and soca. CSME is here with us and I do hope that the radio stations will give the consuming public more of what we produce locally. Let us begin by supporting our own. Play a substantial amount of St. Lucian music everyday. How can we ask other people to do for us what we the ability to do for ourselves?
It is time for local businesspersons to invest in the music business. It is time to venture out and it will take us to make it happen. Let us stop attempting to do things all by ourselves, let us limit our risks by forming investment syndicates. The Chamber of Commerce needs to introduce an Investment Club this year giving guidance as to areas of investment and even go a step forward to manage the portfolios for a fee. The get together of Entrepreneurs & individual Investors should be held quarterly and the projects should be submitted by members of the Chamber and non members. This is the time for innovation and creativity. We must find creative ways to make us get out of the box where everybody is doing what the other is doing. If we believe taxi is making money, everybody buys a taxi and then no one makes money anymore.
Sometime in the year 1999 I was able to get the company I was associated with to invite Mr. Christopher Ram of Guyana to do a public session on the topic – Jump Starting the economy with Public Companies. It was well attended by accountants, lawyers and businesspersons but 6 years later has anything changed? The answer is NO! While many may argue that it not part of our culture to invest in public companies, many persons invested in a scheme that cost them millions. Our people are even investing in the African Free Money Scam. This proves the opposite of the popular belief. I feel that the time has come for our Government to drive investing in public companies by giving tax incentives to investors. The OECS Stock Market is only listing companies with proven viability. We were promised Small Caps whatever that is but what is needed is Penny Stocks allowing investing in start up companies at the regional level. The time has come for our leader in industry to take risks especially in the financial sector. It is going to be a paradigm shift from being risk averse to risk takers.
Until now our Governments in the region have taken a hands off position with financial
institutions but I am convinced that there is need for guidance to ensure that the productive sectors of the economy are financially energized. There are many things that need to be done. We are quite aware of what is necessary. There is no shortage of solutions that will bring buoyancy to our economy and prosperity to our business class.
I would like very much to get your views on the position that I will take from time to time and I take this opportunity to invite you to do so at Email: eaharrisdestiny@gmail.com
This is a year when apart from our countries economic marriage, it is election year for us in St. Lucia making it a year of heightened economic and political activities. The private sectors associations should ensure that they bring to the notice of the political parties the drivers that are necessary to position our entrepreneurs to take their rightful places in the new arrangements locally, regionally and internationally, generally to equip us to be players in the global economy.
We must find a mechanism to promote those within our communities who have the ability to make a difference. That brings me to the CSME Development Fund. It is my sincere hope that this fund when established will have an Innovation / Business Start Up component. People with innovative and creative ideas coming together, pooling their resources should be encouraged. The individual approach must be discouraged especially in technology. We have to put our best minds to work collectively.
It is going to be a busy and exciting year and our preparations for Cricket World Cup 2007 will even add more energy and colour to the year 2006. Let us all plan to be our BEST always. Entrepreneurship is the key to economic, social and cultural advancement of our people.
I have a special gift for you in my next article don’t miss it.
Keep the Faith, God is in Charge!!!
Edward A. Harris

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