“And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving orders, you are really serving God.” – Ephesians 6:7

What a Week in Barbados!

(1) An appeal by former Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, to the Government to tell the people all about the recommendations of a restructuring programme from the IMF which may include a retraction of the public service. (2) In the midst of activities in the national Crop Over festival, the unions threaten to shut down the country in protest of retrenchment action by Government. (3) Tough talk by Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, accusing the National Union of Public Workers of “choke and rob” tactics and departing from acceptable industrial relations practices which were ignored by the unions. (4) After a meeting of a committee of the Social Partnership (government, private sector and unions), the Government “backs down” resulting in a “victory” claimed by labour and calling off the national shut down.

(5) The recognition by economists and political commentators, in particular, that the avoidance of a national shut down was the preferred option for Barbados at this stage. (6) A go slow by Customs at the Bridgetown port which has resulted in significant delays in the release of containers thus impacting business and economic activity. (7) The major garbage pile over the country as a result of sanitation workers withdrawing their services in support of union action and subsequent complaints by the sanitation workers when their pay packets are commensurately reduced. (8) Advice from a former senior official of the Singapore Tourism Board on the major role that social media marketing has to play in making the Caribbean tourist industry as successful as Singapore’s.

Why can we not get it right?

Here is an extract from my column on “Governance and Leadership” on November 26, 2006:

“A major challenge is to get the governance right. This hinges on a recognition of the relative roles of the social partners, as I have said so many times before, in this column. The diligent pursuit of the social partnership model implies developing an optimal strategy towards the achievement of the objective of sustainable development. The media has a very important communication role to play and should be included among the social partners to act as a catalyst.

“The role of the private sector is to ‘do business’ and drive growth. The role of the government is to provide regulatory/policy and service functions (especially providing a dynamic enabling environment for the private sector). The role of the Trade Unions is to induce harmony between employer and employee to achieve greater productivity for fair compensation; and the role of Civil Society is to support the other social partners by mobilizing volunteers and garnering grant support from benevolent sources.

“In my opinion, there needs to be strategic re-visioning of the focus of trade unions from the admirable stance of ‘fighting to maintain jobs’, albeit in a flagging economic environment, to a new perspective which focuses more on promoting increased labour productivity, quality and standards of excellence among workers, thus inducing greater national competitiveness and economic growth. Trade unions should shift gears and become consultants and advisers to the workers while brokering the relationship with employers for fair compensation. This strategic visioning process should be regarded as a healing process in the interest of the sustainable health of trade unions.”

Barbados needs a strategic visioning retreat, among its primary stakeholders, to chart a way to the future, instead of trying to extinguish one socio-economic fire after another. A band aid approach is never optimal. One has to stop, look, listen and then act accordingly.

The goal of such a retreat would be to efficiently and effectively manage the following: (1) corporate governance among the stakeholders; (2) an aggressive and innovative economic growth and taxation strategy; (3) national competitiveness; (4) increased productivity among the populace; and (5) sourcing investment for historical debt and providing incentives to attract investment to stimulate growth.

I received an email last week as follows: “Good day my name is … I’m seeking some help to raise some chicken pls because I’m disability and not working because of my depression see i lost both of my parents drew to a car accident and it mess me up sometime i feel like giving up but the good Lord is helping me to cope with there death from my parents dead my life is a mess right now sometime i don’t even have food to eat and clothes and shoes to wear go anywhere so I’m seeking help i want to raise the chicken so i can support my self that’s all I’m asking for please”. In our society, whose role is it to respond to this plea?

We are at the crossroads. We have to reduce the level of public spending which inevitably means job losses. The solution is not to try to prevent this but to pursue a concomitant culture of pursuing “opportunities not jobs”. Entrepreneurship is the answer.

Entrepreneurship requires ideas (there is no shortage of ideas or ways of generating them), shepherding and money. An outcome of the strategic visioning exercise would be to pay less lip service to Enterprise Development and to consolidate all the bits and pieces into one strong strategy.

Let us all motivate ourselves to lead a lively and productive life by pursuing positive affirmations of abundance. God has given each of us 24 hours of the day, as part of the national resource, so let us work with a smile on our faces always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving orders, you are really serving God. If our country wins, we all win!

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)

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