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“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” – Matthew 7:7-8

The above text exemplifies the principles which have guided CBET’s innovative perennial thrust. During the period of 10 long years of diligence and persistence (research, road blocks, frustration and the occasional break-through), we continually asked, what was the solution to the constraints which inhibited enterprise development? The answer evolved – the CBET Shepherding ModelTM. We sought to implement the model and we found the solution – partner with a Government and Private Sector in a sovereign state. In 2008, we knocked on the door of the Barbados Government and not only was it opened but we were also invited in.

On July 7th 2008, in his Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, the Prime Minister of Barbados, under the topic “Innovation” stated the following: “A national imperative is to grow the size of Barbados’ economic cake and increase the net growth rate in order to: induce sustainable economic growth; boost energy and food security; increase foreign exchange earnings/savings; generate employment; reduce poverty; enhance returns to individuals; commercial banks, private sector businesses, trade unions and Barbadians of the Diaspora”.

He went on to say: “This can be achieved through a national focus on developing a family of successful high performance enterprises, one enterprise after another. Government therefore proposes to establish the Barbados Quick Response Revolving Seed Capital Fund (SCF) and the Barbados Quick Response Venture Capital Fund (VCF). These funds are designed to meet the needs of clients that have potentially profitable and sustainable high-growth business ideas but find it difficult, on a timely basis, to access all the seed and venture capital finance required to meet their needs, from traditional Venture Capital or other Private Equity financial institutions in Barbados”. We were ecstatic! The SCF began operations on November 15th 2008.

The door remained opened and on November 13th 2009 the Prime Minister advised at the launch of the Barbados Entrepreneurs’ Quick Response Venture Capital Fund, as follows: “I would like to appeal this evening to the sophisticated private sector, in particular, to consider investing in the Venture Capital Fund, including private sector companies, credit unions, commercial banks and the Barbados Diaspora. Government has been approached to provide incentives to encourage private sector investment – local and foreign, to participate. I am pleased to announce that the Government will provide a guarantee on the capital amount invested in a bond to be issued by CBET (Barbados) or its related company, as a means of capitalizing this Venture Capital Fund”. We were overjoyed!

To date the CBET (Barbados) board has approved investment in five businesses in: agro-processing; contemporary art and home furnishings; entertainment; digital download of conscious content music; and Internet streaming. These enterprises are now gearing up to expand their operations. Another six businesses are poised to join the CBET family this week to begin the shepherding process in: film production and distribution; Internet TV; alternative medicine; au couture garment manufacturing; an ICT driven security system; and art reproduction. A shepherd is assigned to each business to mitigate the risk of business failure.
We already have another six prospective businesses in the pipeline for consideration in the next round in two months’ time. These are in: private sector tertiary level medical care; fashion design and manufacturing; film production and distribution; management of local musical talent; ICT; and a life and style magazine. There are many others in the process of completing their expression of interest forms.

Last week, I received a call from the officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for CIEX. This was a new acronym to me. I subsequently discovered that the acronym stood for the Council for Investment, Exports, Foreign Exchange and the Diaspora. On further investigation, I learned that, also on July 7th 2008, in his Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, the Prime Minister of Barbados mandated the establishment of CIEX, charging it with the specific responsibility of coordinating the efforts of Barbados’ principal foreign exchange earning sectors, and of exploring creative new ways to attract investment into Barbados. The CIEX has a tripartite membership structure representing the public sector, profit and non-profit entities. The responsibility for implementing the mandate of the CIEX has been entrusted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

The following are amongst the major priorities of this Council: (1) Harmonizing and coordinating the efforts of our Foreign Affairs, Tourism, Investment and Labour officials in our overseas missions through a re-energized Team Barbados. (2) Strengthening the relationship with the Barbadian Diaspora, whether they return to Barbados or not, through the creation of a new unit, Barbados Network, to provide enhanced incentives to attract the participation of Overseas Barbadians in our development effort; and (3) the creation of a Centre for Philanthropy which will provide a comprehensive legal and administrative framework to channel the contributions and good works of individuals and corporations towards projects for the social and economic development of Barbados.

The officer mentioned that CIEX gets many enquiries from prospective entrepreneurs. She went on to say that having been exposed to the operations of CBET (Barbados), on the People’s Business CBC TV programme on Sunday, February 21st, 2010, she thought she would open up the door to effect a smart partnership between CBET (Barbados) and CIEX in the near future.
(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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