He that sat upon the throne said, behold, I make all things new; write, for these words are true and faithful; it is done; I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. ~ Revelation 21:5-6.

Well a month has quietly slipped by but, for all intents and purposes, we are at the beginning of a New Year, new projects, renewed friendships, new jobs, new weather patterns, anniversaries all of these trigger thoughts of a fresh start. There is the opportunity to begin again, to do something that was not done before or try a different approach. Also, road blocks and diversions present the chance to think outside of the box, to penetrate the space between our thoughts, through meditation, and explore the universe of infinite possibilities.

The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) has set off on its Mission: “Barbados the #1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020”. What does this mean? In a nutshell it means that Barbados will be the Global Centre of Excellence for Entrepreneurship by 2020. Why is this important? It is important because it will lead to happiness for us and those who share our vision. The Wikipedia definition of Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy.

As we all embark on this journey, we traverse the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As we evolve to self actualisation – we aspire to happiness. The units we must measure are units of sustained economic growth. Sustained economic growth can only take place, one successful enterprise after another and the entrepreneur is the nucleus around which the enterprise is built. Hence the focus must be on the entrepreneur.

The entrepreneur needs support as follows: Government Policy; Business Facilitation (a user-friendly enabling environment); Training (in all areas and at all levels); Access to Finance; and Mentoring. These are the support pillars of the BEF – each with a champion and a team of volunteers to make the CEO and Project Manager ‘look good’.

Congratulations to Chris Harper, the newly appointed BEF Project Manager, effective February 01.  He is accountable for successfully docking the first stage rocket in November 2011, supported by the pillar teams.

How do we measure sustained economic growth?

The economy of Barbados may experience sustained growth in at least five ways, manifested by a significant increase in growth rate in:

  1. the leading sectors e.g. tourism, international business services, agriculture and manufacturing;
  2. the existing SMEs;
  3. Start-up enterprises;
  4. the languishing value-added West Indian Sea Island Cotton (family silver) industry; and
  5. the number of international businesses which have their global headquarters in Barbados.

So that if we seek to double, say, the GDP per capita by 2020, then there must be a contribution from each of the above.

The tourism sector needs a boost in advocacy, faster removal of bureaucratic barriers to entry, less regulation to make it easier to package, promote and sell our island; and a more diversified marketing and promotion effort.

International business services have a fine infrastructure on which to build a higher growth rate. Agriculture needs policy support to allow it to take off both in the context of exotic agricultural exports and import substitution. Manufacturing needs to focus on the high-tech end of the industry.

The existing SMEs need mentoring and timely access to appropriate finance to really take off. Start-up businesses need the CBET Shepherding Model to mitigate the risk of failure, where the focus is on new businesses with the “DNA of an Elephant”. These enterprises must be registered but not necessarily operational in Barbados, but should have the potential for a major impact on the global market place. The languishing value-added West Indian Sea Island Cotton (family silver) industry needs a Government policy injection to return it to dynamic private sector leadership and partnership with a vertically integrated international value-added partner. Barbados needs to use its business and environmental competitive advantage, through Invest Barbados, to encourage international businesses to have their global headquarters in Barbados.

The Government Policy pillar must encourage Government to play its role as a provider of regulatory and service functions. Government’s role is to set policy within which the private sector can do business and grow the economy of the country. Government has to use its taxation pool to support the enhancement of revenue through innovative marketing initiatives. The Business Facilitation pillar creates the enabling environment by making it easier and more cost-effective for the private sector to be more competitive and grow the economy so that we all benefit. The Training pillar must begin in the schools and must be directed in response to manpower needs as determined by business facilitation and management or technical considerations. The existence of money is never the problem in business; it is timely access to appropriate financial instruments that is the constraint.

The Finance pillar has the challenge to identify the sources of money and to devise innovative ways of gaining access to the money to the mutual benefit of the financial institutions, the entrepreneurs and the country. Finally, the Mentoring pillar must protect against a high business failure rate by assigning a mentor to each business.

As we all pursue our new beginnings it is well to remember the words of the Psalmist ‘Unless the Lord build the House, they labour in vain that build it.’