“Right behind you a voice will say – This is the way you should go – whether to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21
A SUMMIT every November and a FORUM every month – that is indicative of the new volunteer thrust which emanates from the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation’s (BEF) engine.
Please remember the BEF monthly Entrepreneurs’ Forum tomorrow, Tuesday, at the Plantation Garden Theatre from 6 – 8pm. Interest in the monthly FORUM series is increasing; this augurs well for ultimate GDP growth.
What do we mean by “Barbados – the #1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the world by 2020?” On Tuesday, BEF CEO, Damian McKinney, will lead the discussion on delivering sustainable growth “Reaching for the moon – Where we are now and where we are going”.
Sustainable growth leads to high levels of socio-economic well-being which, as endorsed by Wikipedia, may be directly linked to a family’s socio-economic status as represented by family income, parental education level, parental occupation and social status in the community. Families with high socio-economic status often have more success in preparing their young children for school. This creates a positive spiral as we move from one generation to the other through the passage of time.
Wherein lies our potential? How do we convert the potential into growth? How do we catalyse Caribbean concepts into commercial realities? How do we mobilise our wealth of resources?  Where do we access the funding needed to invest in the process? How do we optimise the use of these funds? 
Contrary to popular belief, Barbados, although not blessed with mineral resources, has many opportunities for growth, for example: Sea Island cotton, renewable energy, tourism (and construction), agricultural import substitution and exports, commerce, business consulting and cultural industries.  Herein lie many opportunities.
(1) Did you know that in about 1670, planting of Gossypium barbadense (Sea Island cotton – long staple length, lushness of sheen, silky texture and high micronaire) began in the British North American colonies when cotton planters were brought over from Barbados. Barbados has since produced Sea Island cotton and exported the lint. Did you know that in 2004, a company, Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Inc. (ECCI) was established to generate greater value-added from cotton but that ECCI has not been able to make an impact?
(2) Barbados has assembled and installed solar water heaters commercially for the last 35 years and is now the 4th ranked country in the world when it comes to solar water heater utilisation per household. Barbados has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign exchange as a result. The environment has benefited from a significant reduction of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Barbadians may now feed solar electricity (solaricity) into the national grid and be paid for it.
Incidentally, Mr. James Husbands, a solar water heating pioneer in Barbados and the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence 2008 Science & Technology Laureate, will deliver a lecture on Sustainable Energy: Achievements and Possibilities in the Caribbean, tonight (Monday February 21) at the Daaga Auditorium at UWI, St. Augustine, at 6.30 pm.
(3) Tourism earnings can be increased by aggressively diversifying the tourism marketing strategy to include the larger population countries in the world where the disposable incomes of their citizens are increasing. Construction to enhance tourism accommodation and tourism services will also increase commensurately.
(4) Agricultural imports are now in the vicinity of BB$600 million per annum and there are thousands of acres of idle land. Remember nearly 70,000 acres of the lands in Barbados were under sugar cane cultivation at one time. A clever agricultural trading system could make a major dent in this drain of foreign exchange. Also, recent successful experiences have shown that there is the opportunity to earn foreign exchange through supply of fresh and processed food products to cruise ships.
There is evidence, from the recent Bimventures experience, that start-up product and service industries, including the cultural industries (film, fashion, music, culinary art and fine art), represent a major opportunity to penetrate the global market. These entrepreneurs must partner with business knowledge and experience (“shepherding” – to mitigate the risk of business failure). The advent of shepherding will enhance the expansion of the business consulting industry of shepherds and business advisors.
As the average local disposable income of the population increases, the industry and commerce sectors come alive to add fuel to the spiraling growth effect. Therein collectively lies the BEF challenge to mobilise our wealth of resources and contribute to economic growth.
BEF focuses on the supporting pillars of entrepreneurship: Government policy, Business facilitation, Access to finance, Training and Mentoring. Bimventues focuses on integrating shepherding and Venture Capital and acts as a catalyst to successfully convert Caribbean concepts into commercial realities.
The economic recovery process has to be fuelled by growth from which increased tax revenue will result. It is not optimal to increase taxes in an already flagging economy. We must create an environment to mobilise all private sector funding available in the country and use it wisely to fuel growth to the mutual benefit of all. Government must play its role as a provider of regulatory (laws) and service (funded by taxes) functions; the private sector must ‘do business” and invest its financial resources to expand the economy from which they themselves will benefit.
If you want to get somewhere you will have to listen to God’s guiding voice.
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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