Five Keys To Enhancing Competitiveness In The Caribbean

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cuban-wind-farmBy Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Sept. 23, 2016: There is no denying that constructing, enduring and sustainable competitiveness is critical right now to the Caribbean region’s success in the global market place. So to say the challenge on how to become more competitive as a country and as a region and strive in this challenging market place which we find ourselves is immense – is an understatement. Here are five keys to competitiveness the Caribbean as a region needs to adopt:

1:  Think Outside The Proverbial Box

We have to begin by imagining a far better future for the Caribbean and then we must follow our imagination with useful measures by employing our imagination as we never have before to create a specific list of ideas, while tapping into the best and brightest among us to develop them and create a unified plan that can be marketed to investors. Because at the end of the day, investors invest in bold vision that can bring returns but first we have to have an attractive outside the box vision to draw them in.

2: Telling Our Story, Harnessing Our Natural Assets And Competing For Our Wallet Share

The reality is that as a region we are lagging way behind when it comes to telling our investment story. We are fine with promoting the fact that we have an abundance of sun, sea and sand but we are failing to tell our investment story.  The things that make us stand out as a great investment destination beyond just offering tax incentives. Assets like:

–          our stability – there are no Isis attacks in the Caribbean and no political upheavals. In fact, right now France is now deemed riskier for business than Haiti

–          our abundant resources – we must focus seriously on turning the abundant natural resources we are blessed with into revenue earners to propel our economies further along. Our fruits, our veggies, our food, our fish, our music, our culture, our art etc. These are significant economic earners that are lying dormant while others are using them to propel their own economies forwards.

–          – our location – The region and TCI is the US’ back yard, making it very attractive, very easy to get to and not “time-zone” challenged. No getting up at odd hours of the night to call there.

We also have high literacy rates and the creativity of our people knows no bounds… our human capital is largely literate, speaks many languages, and are creative – whether in the region or in our Diaspora –  and that is something to be proud about. The reality is our “product” stacks up against most, but we are falling short in selling and telling our investment story, i.e. the “Promotion – P” of the principles of marketing.

Just as we promote sea and sand tourism, why not promote the fact that we are open for investments too… in TV ads that target specific segments of the global business sphere? And this includes using Social media to our advantage. In order to succeed we must be able to harness what we have and think outside the box to spike our growth.

3: Harnessing The Right Human Capital And Enhancing Collaborations And Partnerships

To say it is critical to harness the right human capital if we are to succeed globally and be competitive cannot be stressed enough.  For instance, if you are going to launch an international bid and the person listed as the contact for questions only speaks one language, then we have a problem. How exactly is this going to work successfully?

Another challenge is the way bids are being presented to a global market of developers. Competitiveness in understanding the global market place you are operating in and realizing people are more into giving a hand up than a hand out is the key.

Which means we must move beyond the notion that what we are offering is so amazing with tax incentives thrown in that everyone must invest their own monies to build a project and then hand it over free of charge in 50 years under the BOLT model. This investment model is not competitive enough for today’s market and we have to drop it.

We must also recognize and understand that creative – private and public sector partnerships – locally, regionally, globally and in the Diaspora – is the key to improving our nations, our region, our lives and the lives of the people in this nation –such collaboration will allow us to harness resources to be more sustainable in the global economy.

Which also means we in the Caribbean must move beyond petty politics and arrogant perceived power and understand that our growth as an island – and as a region – is tied to relationship building globally – whether with other regional nations, the Caribbean Diaspora, the US, China, Europe, Africa or other areas around the world.

Let’s make sure we are building networks – networks that also offer strict safeguards against all forms of corruption and cronyism and help the entire development process thrive and not just survive.

The competitive nature of the global market place demands such action and we cannot be left behind in 2016. We must think global and act global for the betterment of our people.

There is no way any one of us – whether in government or the private sector – is smart enough to do it alone – but through collective respectful efforts and partnerships and consultations – we can move our nations, our economies, our businesses and our people to higher heights globally.

4: Growing The Middle

Too often, the main complaint I hear from entrepreneurs in the Caribbean is their struggle to access capital to grow. Yet every economist would tell you – growing the middle level of the economy – the industry level, where the private sector sits –the manufacturing, agribusiness and the services industries – is key to growing a successful economy.

Why? Because this is the level where wealth is actually created. It is at this level that the economy can be most energetic, innovative and inclusive.

When you look at the Singapore model and their growth – it is largely in part due to the substantial growth of SME’s and this includes incorporating massive technological change and international competitiveness to increasing quality and output. This is what gives hope and brings the vision to reality for the young student who dreams of creating an app to better his life and his community. For the single mother with an idea to start her own company and hire others locally or the father who works a 9-5 job but secretly dreams of launching out and running his own business.

We must support our innovators within while also pushing small businesses to be more innovative  – creating goods and services that can make our nations stand out – beyond just sun sea and sand tourism. And while we do that let’s also focus on ensuring we are bringing our A –game on both sides – both in the private and the public sector.

Ensuring competitiveness in response times must be a top priority for us as a government or a company – and this includes every little facet – from email responses, to a response to a contact query on your website, to phone calls being returned, to contract and bid releases, to licenses being approved, to payments being made etc.  Because at the end of the day, timeliness translates into productivity and of course productivity into competitiveness.

5: Focusing On Technology And Energy Efficiency

We must harness technology to be more competitive and stay competitive. Especially in an era where you can live and work anywhere as long as there is a decent internet connection. We need to establish our own Silicon Valley so to speak in regional nations – a techno pole!

Especially when you look at the regional youth unemployment rates today. We have to invest in the next generation to ensure we keep moving forward.  And that includes also cutting down our energy bills by focusing on boosting our renewable energy sector through the technology available to us.

We as One Caribbean need to adopt serious clean energy goals to not only help our environment but be good for our bottom line by attracting manufacturing interests to our shores. We have the resources to move away from that and towards a Clean Energy Initiative by 2045 – harnessing our god given natural assets to better serve our people.

This will also deliver a serious boost to our economies by helping to set us apart from our neighbors and the world, but we have to be aggressive with this and not continue to lounge around contently being oil dependent.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now. The keys published here were part of a keynote address delivered on ‘Dimensions of Competitiveness in the 21st Century:  A Global Perspective’ at the Invest Turks & Caicos ‘Enhancing National Competitiveness Conference’ on September 1, 2016.