“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” – Joshua 1:8

Last week, in discussing the role of the University of the West Indies (UW) during a symposium which was part of its 60th anniversary celebrations, I endorsed the view that UWI should significantly expand its thrust to train problem solvers. I supported the concept of the promotion of Centres of Excellence and concluded that it is through such reflection and action that thou shalt have good success.

I also had occasion recently to recommend to the ANSA McAL Foundation, the financial force behind The Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards of Excellence (www.ansacaribbeanawards.com), that it should establish Centres of Excellence built around the diverse Caribbean knowledge base of The Anthony N. Sabga Laureate nominees for these awards. There is an opportunity for a University cum Private Sector partnership to evolve in this regard. Let us not just talk about it, let us reflect on it and go forth and be prosperous and successful.

There was much supportive feedback to last week’s column. From Trinidad:
“Right now there’s an Education Discussion group here which has existed for about four years and I’m dying to write and say – Get it off the website and out into the society! Of course, lazy me, I haven’t yet written them. It’s not about holding discussion after discussion among a select (albeit erudite) group of educators. There need to be seminars and public discussions, with stakeholders across the board sensitized to the problems attending these discussions and joining forces to find and implement solutions. It’s definitely not only educators and/or teachers who can effect these improvements”.

The message – let us stop talking about it and do something about it, procrastination is the thief of time.

From Barbados a UWI professor shared a UWI paper entitled “Creating Economic Wealth in Barbados: Manufacturing on the Edge”. A synopsis is as follows:

“Most developed countries in the world acknowledge the importance of manufacturing and its contribution to the national wealth. In Canada the sector accounts for one-fifth of the nation’s real output of goods and employs 2.1 million Canadians. Despite a slowdown in the U.S. economy, American producers contemplate resurgence through productive usage of existing facilities and advancements in sustainability and conservation. There are five compelling reasons why manufacturing is critically important. Often referred to as the five pillars of the industry, they are (a) that it is the engine of economic growth (b) it adds to the productivity of a nation (c) it provides a higher standard of living through a higher total compensation package than other industries (d) it is the main force in providing innovation to an economy and (e) its contribution to international trade.

“The primary expectation was, and remains, that within the newly enlarged Caribbean common market, manufacturing firms would be encouraged to expand operations with more emphasis on economies of scale and reduced costs which would allow them to be more competitive.

“The second objective was to assess the industry’s marketing strengths in respect to fulfilling customer expectations and sustaining the corporate strategic directive. Of particular interest was the outlook regarding expansion of the exporting function and the extent to which firms might enlarge their operations.

“The third objective was to determine the competitive position of manufacturing firms; in particular their ability to use or apply technology to their operations. Innovation is a key requirement in maintaining the competitive thrust of a corporation, and the ability to use technology, to improve product worth and meet the challenges of customer needs in the future is keyed to management’s regard for innovation.

“Finally, the study was interested in what the industry perceived was required to remain competitive and to survive in the future. A subset of this enquiry was to determine if the industry might be interested in an outside agency that could assist producers to become competitive and if so, what areas of support should be addressed.

“An unexpected consequence of the study was an evaluation of the industry and the determination of its importance to the Barbados economy. The literature on manufacturing in the Caribbean is not as clearly defined as it is in other countries and the data collected for the Barbados study offers a broader view of this vital sector with a sharper focus on its strengths and weaknesses.

“The Study of Manufacturing in Barbados portrays a viable industrial sector, but one that is clearly in need of encouragement and support. As noted earlier, it is an industry on the edge. Domestic manufacturers are presently competing in the global marketplace and are knowledgeable about what must be done in the future to continue that thrust. They are generally cognisant about managerial techniques and methods and have the platform, if not the determination to enlarge their operation. Indeed a significant number already plan to increase their exporting capacity.”

The message – reflection has taken place. Now sustainable action must follow in order to create a Centre of Manufacturing Excellence and sustainable success.

More reflections on UWI next week when we shall also reflect on the newest Barbadian museum experience and a Zambian adventure.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business
Enterprise Trust Inc. Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org)

Comments are closed.