Thursday, April 25, 2024

AS I SEE THINGS: Export services development

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While it is rather interesting to listen to the debates in the House of Assembly about the state of the economy, and whether or not the dollar is in danger of being devalued as a consequence of allegedly looking at some kind of engagement with the International Monetary Fund, the plain truth is that if corrective measures are not taken more rapidly in this new year, Barbadians would eventually go to sleep one night and awake to the sounds of music – not for dancing, but engineered for weeping and mourning over economic and financial chaos.

It is sad that rather than address the real economic issues, the Minister of Finance and others in the ruling party continue to bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and instead keep pointing fingers at the Opposition Barbados Labour Party and its leader, as if to suggest that there is something erroneous or baleful to the idea of the Opposition wanting to wrest power from the Government now rather than later.

If truth be told, Barbados must be rescued at this moment from the present administration before further damage is done to the economy and society.

This administration has proven that it is ineffective when it comes to managing the affairs of the country. All the facts pertaining to the performance of the economy, as reported, time after time by the Governor of the Central Bank confirms that position.

Should we decide in the next general election to change the Government, what strategy can the new administration embrace to transform the economic architecture?

Clearly, that economic strategy has to be all-encompassing and must reflect, as a major theme, export services development, particularly in relation to education and medical services.

Why? As the old saying goes, there is no reason to seek to re-invent the wheel when it comes to economic strategising. As small and highly vulnerable economies, we can and should learn from each other’s experiences. Even though circumstances may vary somewhat from one country to the next, we can still practice learning-by-doing with simple adaptations to policies or strategies for economic growth and development that have worked elsewhere.

Case in point: By providing “educational services” to students from 60 different countries, the St George’s University (SGU) in Grenada is already a major contributor to the country’s employment, foreign exchange earnings, and GDP.

Can you imagine what the additional economic impact would be if the SGU offers pre-med degrees via distance learning, globally and perhaps, distance learning in other subject areas that it already teaches?

This, of course, is done by a very high percentage of United Kingdom universities, as well as many in other countries, including the University of the West Indies (UWI). Such an expansion by SGU would be considerably less costly (in terms of the need for additional plant/classrooms/labs/public utility bills) than an expansion in “on-site” student numbers, while providing high paying jobs for additional professional staff, and earning Grenada further foreign exchange.

Given UWI’s presence, can it be that difficult for the next Government to craft and implement a strategy of educational and medical services development to bring real benefits to the country, just as is the case with the SGU in Grenada?

I guess not.

Email: bfrancis@uwi.edu.bb

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