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New competitive Barbados

The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation held its third annual National Entrepreneurship Summit of Friday, 16 November at the LESC.

Few countries in the world have the potential that Barbados does to reach the top tier of Most Competitive Countries in the world.

We are now ranked at number 44 (down two places from the prior year) in the latest World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.

Moving from a Transition Economy to an Innovation Driven Economy is our immediate challenge.

That is the space the winners occupy. Cyprus, Malta and Singapore, all small islands, have already achieved that status.

Barbados must get in the top 20 of the WEF’s GCI by 2020.

Despite the very stiff head winds, now is a time for belief in ourselves and for taking positive strategic structural actions to put us back on the growth path.

We must collaborate as never before to turn the tide. This is a national priority that crosses all political party lines.

BEF’s vision is to make Barbados the number one entrepreneurial hub in the world by 2020.

BEF, a registered Barbados Charity, works closely with its many strategic partners in all sectors of the economy.

We identify where the entrepreneurship ecosystem is weak and needs improving and then, working with the right partners, we seek to close the gap through appropriate actions. Our approach is collaborative and with an ethos of action and effectiveness. We seek to eliminate duplication and silos.

In 2012 BEF collaborated with many partners, sponsors and volunteers to deliver five key pillar missions:

* In education — Delivered the Secondary Schools $20 Challenge and the Classroom to Boardroom Room challenge. More than 500 students from 15 schools participated.

* In Mentorship — Developed and launched, in partnership with BYBT, the Barbados on-line mentorship website. This web portal provides mentorship support from registered volunteer experts at no cost to start-up businesses who need business advice.

* In Business facilitation — Expanded free Internet Wi-Fi access to 75 per cent of the Barbados population with a vision, with Government support, to get it to 100 per cent in 2013.

*In Government Policy — Developed, with entrepreneurs and key stakeholders, an Entrepreneurship Charter to present to Government as an urgent roadmap for the development of Entrepreneurship in Barbados.

* In Finance — Established the Barbados Angel Investor Network and StartUp Barbados, an innovative active process to identify potential strong Start-Ups and to get funding for them. This is being done in collaboration with the Automotive Art Entrepreneurship Competition and UWI. More than 30 successful entrepreneurs have agreed to join the initial network of Angel Investors.

We need key business facilitation. Government departments must embrace the BEF’s 2020 vision by incorporating that vision into their annual action plans and budgets for 2013 onwards.

Transformational change can happen quickly with the full engagement of public sector agencies. Their participation is critical now.

We are inviting Government to work with BEF and its strategic partners and all other stakeholders to immediately establish a public sector project to establish firmly the Number One Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020. The mandate is in Protocol VI of the social partnership.

Four key additional elements of the Barbados Entrepreneurial Ecosystem that need immediate action are:

(i) Broadband Internet connectivity; the growth of any services-based economy has to be enabled by broadband of the highest efficiencies;

(ii) Establishment of an initial $10 million capital pool to support start-up SMEs. The initial commitment by Government to Bim Ventures of $3 million was a good start but much more is needed.

This is an excellent opportunity for our financial institutions in banking and insurance and large corporations to help the emerging sectors and make a strategic investment in the development of the Barbados indigenous sectors; returns will take time, but will be there in the long term to their benefit.

(iii) Energetic encouragement and support for the transfer of international skills and entrepreneurial talent to Barbados. FDI in strategic targeted sectors will create good jobs, open export markets, attract capital and develop local skills.

Our prosperity is connected entirely to the global economy, not a small domestic consumer base.

We have nothing to fear from going fully global as quickly as possible.

(iv) The quality and reputation of our legal/justice system is an essential pillar to achieve our international business ambitions. Urgent focus in this area in now needed.

Promoting entrepreneurship on a bedrock of competitiveness in now the national obsession of many governments and societies around the world.

To a significant degree we are lagging behind.

We must educate our people about competitiveness and the role it plays in their own success.

This is an urgent challenge so that we can press ahead with making the structural changes we need to succeed in a global economy.

The recent debate on privatisation needs to be positioned within this context.

* Peter N. Boos FCA is chairman of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation


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