“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – Isaiah 9:6.

Michael Rappaport (Business Editor, Daily Bulletin, Ontario, California), in September 2006, reported on a conversation with Ira Jackson Dean of the Claremont Graduate University’s Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management.

Jackson succeeded the late Peter Drucker earlier this year. Although he has been described as “an accomplished entrepreneur of noble causes in universities, business, government and the social sector” Jackson reported that it is not going to be easy following in Drucker’s footsteps.

One of the questions which arose in the conversation was “As someone who worked in government, what do you see as the role of government with regard to business”?

The response was: “Business needs government to be more businesslike and efficient, to live better within its means and to be more responsible for institutional performance and fiscal accountability. Business also needs government to provide an enabling framework for the private sector to thrive and grow according to predictable and reliable rules, from free and fair trade to effective regulations”.

Encyclopaedia Britannica reports that Japan’s system of economic management is probably without parallel in the world. The extent of direct state participation in economic activities is limited, and the trend is for even less direct involvement. Nonetheless, the government’s control and influence over business is stronger and more pervasive than in most other free-enterprise countries. This control is not exercised through legislation or administrative action but through constant—and to an outsider almost obsessive—consultation with business and through the authorities’ deep indirect involvement in banking.

Consultation is mainly by means of joint committees and groups that keep under review, monitor the performance of, and set targets for nearly every branch and sector of the economy. In addition there are several agencies and government departments that concern themselves with such aspects of the economy as exports, imports, investment, and prices, as well as with overall economic growth. These are staffed by experts, who are not only in constant touch with business but are also close to the minister concerned with that particular area of the economy. They form an integral part of a system that is quick to collate and interpret the latest economic indicators and to respond to changes in the situation. The most important of these agencies is the Economic Planning Agency, which forms part of the Prime Minister’s Office and, apart from monitoring the daily running of the economy, also is responsible for long-term planning.

According to www.leadersquest.org, China is one of the dominant forces shaping the future of the world. An enigma to many, China is a complex and intriguing nation. We need to explore the issues and opportunities related to business, trade, politics, education, development, spirituality and the environment, as understood and seen through the eyes and experiences of the Chinese. We need to address: The growing role and impact of China in the world; Chinese perspectives on the West; The impact of the rapid opening up of much of the country on attitudes, practices and future opportunities; The experience of international companies and overseas investors in China; The growth of Chinese entrepreneurship and the new generation of leaders; The changing role of government in a country experiencing rapid change; The interaction of politics, business and civil society; China’s vast rural economy and the challenging contrast between this and the developed economy; The evolving industrialisation of China’s interior; The development of NGO’s independent voice and the workings of community in China; An insight into the role of culture and spirituality in the next phase of China’s development as a great nation.

The Drucker/Ito Graduate School of Management has influenced systems of economic management in the US and beyond. Japan’s system of economic management has produced enviable results. China is one of the dominant forces shaping the future of the world. Can we learn from the above about the role of Government in small economies of the Caribbean? Can we transfer any of their technology?

By the way, I saw a report recently from a hand spinner of cotton. He was swooning about the quality of West Indies Sea Island cotton – “The sliver is so luscious that it borders on sinful!” A comparison – The Pima cotton actually felt coarser than the Sea Island and creates a crisper, denser yarn, however, the Sea Island handspun has the most incredible suppleness and sheen. I have never before spun anything so wonderful! Sea Island does present a higher level of technical difficulty for hand spinning, but the result is well worth the effort.

From all reports this year’s crop looks good on the ground. However, there seems to be a deafening silence about Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Inc. and its progress towards benefiting from revenues up the value chain, since the Government has effectively taken ECCI over. Is this the correct role of government? Would Drucker have recommended this approach? Would Japan and China have done it that way? I am concerned about our “family silver” but rest in the comfort that the government will be on His shoulders.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – www.cbet-inc.org)

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