Notes From a Native Son: Framing a New Business Economy

Hal Austin

The Barbados economy has enormous potential, enough to catapult the island in to a genuine global middle economy on par with Iceland and the Nordic countries, if only we were to wake-up from a mind-set buried neck high in the old professions. Our great handicap is a lack of vision, creativity, sound business leadership, and a refusal by those in power to make way for more enterprising young people and those with ideas and initiative. The price we pay as a nation for this policy and entrepreneurial inertia is an unnecessarily high unemployment rate among young people, those in middle age holding on to public sector jobs for life, and those in or approaching retirement just looking back on a life that could have been.

One problem is that, as in our social and professional lives, collectively economically we have found ourselves in a comfort zone in which tourism, and addictive national and household borrowing, bring in just enough to keep food on the table and maintain a bogus lifestyle, so everything must be right with the world. In the meantime, our neighbouring islands, especially St Lucia, are catching up with us, as we are experiencing a slow, but steady decline in our living standards and overall progress.

Barbadians do what Barbadians have always been good at: they talk. Every Barbadian has the answer, no matter what the question; collectively they are always the biggest, brightest and best. Humility does not feature very high in our cultural values and, worse, if anyone of us has the temerity to suggest a roadmap out of our national malaise they person is headed for public humiliation.

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