Are we serious?

I keep reading in the media that Barbadians are being urged to earn foreign exchange and I’m sure that many of us are trying to — I know that I am.

So it really annoys me to hear of cases where the potential to earn significant foreign exchange is there but it is being held up by various Government departments and the one that seems to be most popular (or unpopular) is the Town and Country Planning Development Office. It’s even worse because of the magnitude of the potential earnings from the projects that they deal with.

I know of one project in particular that could earn the country several million US dollars in foreign exchange but after six months still can’t get out of that department. I don’t even know how many others there are like that; I hope not many. In addition to the foreign exchange that we so desperately need, there is the employment factor in a time when construction and other companies have had to lay off people.

So are we really serious about the things that we say? Do the “powers that be” in these departments see the big picture and try to prioritise these foreign exchange earning projects so that even if there are issues to be resolved, they are dealt with as efficiently as possible so that work can go ahead?

Another area of frustration for me is the whole talk about a digital economy. We say it with our lips, we acknowledge that Barbados has to move into the digital era and start to produce knowledge based products and implement mobile solutions such as hotel check in, use of QR codes and all of these things which, truthfully, sometimes go over my head. Yet all this week in travelling with my iPad, I find it extremely frustrating trying to access Wi-Fi and finding everything locked down.

The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation spent hundreds of man hours last year, and are still working on it, to try to create free Wi-Fi in the whole island and while we pay lip service to the idea and say how wonderful that would be, we still have locked down systems and the inability to connect up anytime anywhere.

If we are really serious about moving forward our economy and creating a really user-friendly experience for both tourists and locals then we really need to “walk the talk” as we used to say. Imagine that while a visitor is in their taxi driving to their hotel, they can use their iPhone, or whatever, to check in before they get there so that there is no queuing at the reservation desk on arrival.

What about the room key? I understand that you can even use your phone to open the door once the hotel is able to send you the code! We’re years away from that but we have to be thinking years ahead.

Barbadians are very good at talking and articulating theories but it seems that when it comes time for action, we fall down. I’m not sure why that is, but if we’re serious we have to stop the talk at some point and initiate action.

Last year around this time I was in the audience of a think tank on the governance of Barbados and I heard with my own ears Members of Parliament, members of the civil service and members of the private sector all say one thing: We have been talking about this for years but nothing has changed.

If we don’t change now, we will get changed; the Big Bad wolf is already knocking at the door and if our house is not built of stone it will be blown down.

Having vented, I have to say that I just received some really great news from a Government agency, BIDC, which approved a grant for a foreign exchange earning project that I proposed to them, in just two weeks. Let me hasten to add that it wasn’t for thousands so that’s probably why and let me also warn potential proposers that they only provide 80 per cent of what you’re asking for so either go in asking for more than you need (which I foolishly didn’t) or be prepared to show that you have put in at least 20 per cent of the money.

Having said that, two weeks was still a pretty good turn around so they seem to be serious about helping us citizens to earn foreign exchange. Thankfully they’re some exciting things coming down the pipeline to encourage, and provide the platform for, every citizen of Barbados to be able to contribute to the foreign reserves of the country. So stay tuned to Barbados Today.

Donna Every is a motivational speaker and trainer. She is the author of four books including her debut novel, The Merger Mogul.

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