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“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 3:13-14

In my last column I was seeking to rationalise a response from David Lewis, Vice President, Manchester Trade, Ltd., D.C, who reacted to a BBEC press release where we were exposing the synergy and benefits of twinning youth with experience. In response to my column, David thanked me for the media coverage and requested that I should feel free to mention him by name in the future since he had nothing to hide. He continued to advise that we should be wary of taking strong recommendations based on limited market and life experiences.

He drew reference to an unsuccessful business venture from some 15 years back which he thought was called Caribbean Enterprise Fund (CEF) and which attracted significant regional and international public funds despite the advice of “many of us” that it was not going to work. He was gracious, however, and asked to be kept posted on how these new ventures develop and perform.

I thanked him for his response and empathised with his challenges of having to deal with a sustained spell of very cold weather in DC. I exhorted that “Someone has to be the pioneer; we cannot base all our actions on the risk averse – Has it been done before? – syndrome”. I tried to state clearly that what we were doing was to give well trained youth an opportunity to be involved in sharing responsibilities in a dynamic business environment by ensuring that they are part of the process and they add whatever value they can from their own knowledge and experience. The response to date, in my opinion, has been superb.

My response continued: “Sorry, I am not a student of the Caribbean Enterprise Fund (CEF). Can you advise what the reasons were why ‘many of us’ thought that it was not going to work? Were these in fact the reasons why it did not work? How much do you know about CBET and BBEC? Am I to assume that you can today delineate the reasons why CBET and BBEC will not work? I shall be happy to make a presentation to you and others so that I can apprise you of the proposals and continually improve on them based on your feedback. This has been the modus operandum thus far and we are still alive and kicking. Please stay tuned to our websites www.cbetmodel.org and www.bimventures.com- hopefully they will keep you posted”.

The weather in DC got worse. There were two mega-snow storms, which delayed his reply. On the brighter side, he thought that this might give rise to some late decisions by North Americans to travel to the Caribbean. He apologised for his late response but I was disappointed that he never really addressed my main requests to him as to why the CEF did not work and whether the reasons for the failure were in keeping with those of the forecasts of the day. I was also seeking his vision as to why CBET/BBEC would not work so that we could at least be aware and look out for any pitfalls which were not already addressed in our design. He was silent on these issues but continued on the myopic thrust exemplified by the following “Bottom line for me is I am not bullish on ANY CARICOM economy as a destination for investments of the nature you are advocating and we advocate a non-nationalist open-free market approach to investment opportunities: let people use the new IT to invest globally wherever the markets look good! For long-term stability we recommend US, EU, and Japan as safe bets always. For short-medium term investors looking to make money fast: China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, DR… we do NOT recommend Russia for example nor any CARICOM market although we are aware that for some traditional investors Barbados and Bermuda are attractive”.

David still seemed to be writhing in pain from the thought of youngsters giving advice. He was again gracious but at the same time myopic by concluding that “Hope it does work well for you guys, we are just averse to the kind of advertorial presented on CBET-BBEC … investors all over can get much better and more experienced and tested advice all over the region”. I am not sure what his reference to “advertorial” was about but at least the PR strategy is having some provocative results.

We thank David for his comments but I would like to end by paraphrasing the biblical text above as follows “We are not saying that we have this all together, that we have it made. But we are well on our way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for us. Friends, don’t get us wrong: By no means do we count ourselves as experts in all of this, but we have got our eyes on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. We are off and running and we are not turning back. We have spent many resources training youngsters in the region; we must back this by exuding confidence in them. The next cohort of BBEC businesses will be shepherded beginning March 2010.

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

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