Where are we going, pray tell?
It is interesting Massy is considering the closure of its Sargeants Village branch. I am assuming it is not intending to re-enter the market with any other supermarket at that location and I am announcing a victory for the housewives of Barbados.
I was chatting with a friend about the impending closure, and he blamed regional integration for the demise of SuperCentre and the Barbados Shipping & Trading Group (BS&T). We had both gone to hear the lecture delivered at the Small Business Association’s awards ceremony, and so I had asked him to contextualize his answer, given former Prime Minister Owen Arthur’s call for a renewed effort at Caribbean integration.
Although he seemed comfortable with Mr Arthur’s assertion that Barbados needed a bigger market in order to bolster economic growth, he was also adamant that Massy’s takeover was not a positive. On reflection, I realized that what my friend was grappling with was not the necessity for Caribbean integration, but the philosophical mooring that should underpin the integration process.
Massy has brought a pure capitalist approach to the integration process. The premium is on acquiring assets and making money. The most blatant manifestation of the philosophical mooring of its business strategy was the complete renaming and rebranding of SuperCentre.
Pure capitalism is not conscious of cultural nuances. It is also not concerned with the other factors outside simple money that encourage consumers to behave in one way or the other.
I believe Massy is now paying the price for its pure capitalist business model. SuperCentre was a household name in Barbados. It meant something to this island. The loss of the brand dissolved a loyalty to it by many a Barbadian consumer.
Barbadians are now establishing new loyalties with other supermarket chains; and I must admit to being very proud of how Barbadians have been able to use their power of choice to reject the disrespect of the significance of the SuperCentre brand.
Caribbean integration is necessary for the forward development of the Caribbean space, yes. And I hope we as the people of the region can craft the movement on our own terms before the international community structures another arrangement for us, as they did in the case of the West Indies Federation.
However, the Caribbean is too small and its economies and societies too fragile to withstand integration based on a capitalist model.
The capitalist underpinning of the Massy conglomerate seems to have struck a nerve of insult among Barbadians. While there remains support for the idea of regionalism, the reaction of Barbadians is a rejection of regionalism underpinned by capitalism as the philosophy.
On the topic of business in Barbados, I was alarmed a few days ago when I learned that the island had not been offered a rating by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index for 2015-2016. The ranking could not be established, owing to inadequate information being available.
The Central Bank of Barbados has not only discontinued an open discussion with the people of Barbados via its public Press conferences, but it seems as if the Government has adopted a policy of not interfacing with the international community on the state of the Barbadian.
The World Economic Forum is an economic surveillance mechanism of the global economy. The rankings are used by various investors when conducting the due diligence process, and they are also closely monitored by countries that grant aid and other assistance.
Not having a rating on the World Economic Forum’s Competitive Index should not be the reputation Barbados is aiming for. The 2014-2015 index had placed Barbados at 55, down eight places from the previous year’s 47 ranking.
Instead of using the traditional Barbadian response of pride and industry to improve on the factors which had been causing our slide on the index, we have thrown our national hands in the air.
We have copped out of taking the ranking as a measure to be used against efforts to increase various mechanisms to enhance doing business on the island.
This Massy closure and the absence of the competitiveness ranking of our island are two current occurrences that again underline the need for this country to begin to reframe a philosophical mooring for Barbados. At the birth of the country in 1966, there was a socialist business model manifested in the premium of hard work and pride in country as the bedrock of everything to be done.
After the era of globalization, the philosophy of Barbados and what “Barbados” means are in need of recalibration. Caribbean integration is a fundamental pillar of the forward look of this country, and so are good rankings by international rating agencies that matter.
Am I the only one who realizes that until we can articulate a philosophy on where we are going, we will continue our journey feeling like we are in the ocean on a very small dinghy?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne isa full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.