These words spoken 37 years ago by a true Caribbean intellectual and leader are as relevant today as they were then. Unfortunately we have honed our speaking skills at the expense of our doing skills and continue to sacrifice real sustainable progress on the alter of political expediency.
“To be a good business man (or woman) one needs to know something about business management and to have access to credit, but above all one needs to have the right personality: our deficiencies lie here rather than in the colleges, in the law, or in the banking system. Personality is formed on one’s mother’s knee. One’s image of the kind of person one wishes to be is absorbed from one’s culture as one grows up. We shall not be well endowed with business types until our society learns to appreciate the business-like personality, and absorbs this appreciation into the cultural framework of boyhood, girlhood and adolescence. This is a matter of the time taken to diffuse cultural change, rather than a matter of race, climate, past servitude, or other such popular explanations. The current European-American-Soviet economic superiority stems from their having gained a start 150 years in learning the secrets of creating high level technology and of organising things efficiently. In the process their cultures have modified themselves to absorb respect and appreciation for the businesslike personality, and to pass this on to each new generation. Diffusion of cultural change from one part of the world to another used to take several centuries, but nowadays, with instantaneous communications, it is only a matter of decades. Our own West Indian cultures have been changing very rapidly in these respects, discarding within a generation many of the images which dominated us for centuries on the superior values of colour, class,masculinity, and other non-achievement attributes. In fact already all our leaders, political, religious and philosophical, are committed by their pronouncements to the open society, with its emphasis on performance. In fact if we can match our deeds to our words, we can catch up within two generations.”
Extracted from a statement on The Shortage Of Entrepreneurs by Sir Arthur Lewis, President of the Caribbean Development Bank, to the board of Governors at the 3rd annual meeting held in Jamaica on 26 April 1973.