Last year at Nassau, we, the Heads of Government of the Member States of the Caribbean Community, reached an understanding on the policies and actions that our Governments would take to promote structural adjustment, accelerated development and regional integration among the CARICOM countries.
We recognised then that an important part of the strategy for economic revitalisation centred around the building up and strengthening of local and regional management, skills, technology, entrepreneurship in all of the sectors of our mixed economies. Such skills and such entrepreneurship are the ultimate foundation for the achievement of structural transformation and high levels of productive employment.
All of our economies require vigorous, innovative entrepreneurship, working within a framework of soundly conceived and efficiently implemented Government policies, if they are to make the traditional lines of production – many of them uncompetitive by international standards – towards a diversified economic structure, the output of which can be produced competitively for national, regional and extra-regional markets.
Higher levels of entrepreneurship and managerial and technical skills are needed at all scales of production – in small-scale enterprises (including individual and family units) no less than in medium-sized and large-scale enterprises.
We wish to stress that the need for such entrepreneurship does not entail a small role for Government in the economic sphere. Governments have much to do by way of:
(a) providing general guidance and orientation for the economy as a whole and for its various sectors;
(b) engaging in sound national economic management and pursuing sensible development policies;
(c) providing adequate infrastructure and other supporting services;
(d) undertaking programmes (most of them involving heavy Government expenditure in areas such as Education and Training and Health) to improve the quality of human resources (or, in other words, the stock of human capital) so as to increase national productivity and to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and income;
(e) ensuring the adequate mobilisation and availability of venture capital, especially equity capital, and undertaking industrial promotion, research and development and export market identification and development; and
(f) engaging in production ventures where private initiative is unsuitable or proving unresponsive.
Entrepreneurial development is of the highest importance whether much reliance is being placed on the private sector or the public sector for future economic growth.
We also wish to make the point that the genuine development of any country or regional grouping must always ultimately rest on the fullest possible development and utilization of local skills, local management, local enterprise, and local capital – even though an important supplementary role could be played by the provision from overseas of many of these vital inputs, especially at the earlier stages of development.
II. Entrepreneurship As An Historical Imperative
We affirm our deep-seated conviction the the peoples of the Caribbean posses, in abundant measure, all of the basic human endowments and qualities necessary to assuming full responsibility for the conduct of their economic life. The entire history of the Region, notably from the phase of emancipation to political independence, has represented a triumph of human assertiveness over deeply entrenched prejudices and powerful institutional and political constraints.
More than two decades after independence, the Region must once again demonstrate its capability to shake loose from traditional modes and practices in assuming responsibility for its destiny. This time, it must make that determination manifest in the economic field, by Caribbean peoples coming forward on their own initiatives in an environment which encourages full release of their potential to create new, and enhance existing sources of growth and development for their economies.
III. Education, Training, Skills and the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Although the literacy rate is very high by Third World standards, although school enrolment is almost 100% for children between the ages of 5 and 14 and although the provision of general secondary and university education has made great strides over the last two decades, the availability of skills is by no means adequate either quantitatively or qualitatively.
Technical and Vocational training facilities and numbers of teachers of these are considerably less than what is to be desired – at both secondary and post-secondary levels, there is a great shortage of many high-level professional skills, particularly in the various fields of Applied Science and Technology; and we are short of large numbers of persons at the para-professional level – such as Engineering and Surveying Technicians, Scientific and laboratory Assistants, Medical Assistants, Accounting Assistants, trained primary and junior Secondary Teachers and Computer Programmers. And we are woefully short of middle-level skills in nearly all categories – farmers with secondary specialist training. In addition, our secondary schools population needs much more exposure than is now available to science and Mathematics, to Business Studies and to the use of the computer, without however neglecting proficiency in language skills and social studies. Finally, management skills are in short supply at all levels.
Increasingly, our education and training systems (formal and informal) must equip our school-leavers and young people with skills needed both for employment by others and for self-employment, and must encourage the development of attitudes and motivation conducive to the display of initiative and resourcefulness. We must better prepare our young people for the rapid technological changes occurring in the world at large.
IV. The Combined Natural Resources of the Region
We wish once more to reiterate with the greatest possible emphasis that, contrary to what continues to be instilled in our people’s minds every day, the Region, considered as a whole, has a very good natural resource base per head of our total population of 5½ million – good agricultural and livestock land; by and large good rainfall, fisheries, aquaculture, forests, oil and natural gas, bauxite, other insufficiently-exploited materials and minerals and huge hydroelectric potential. Moreover, we do not forget that the thriving tourist industry in the Region is based in large part on the natural resources of sea, sun and sand. Our geographical location in relation to trade, investment and tourism is a highly advantageous one. We have very good human resource potential. In short, few parts of the Third World have our unique advantages in terms of trainable human resources, natural resources per capita and geographical location at the junction of the three Americas. Much economic progress could be achieved if we train our human resources, utilise efficiently all our natural resources, discipline ourselves and develop our latent capacity for entrepreneurship.
V. Sectoral Needs
(a) Agriculture and the Rural Sector
At the sectoral level, we perceive a crying need for significant strengthening of the small – and medium-sized farm sector – ensuring access to land and equipping existing farmers with knowledge, skills, and the other inputs required to make use of expanding opportunities to satisfy local food requirements, and for increasing exports. Production and export possibilities in areas such as fruits and vegetables, horticulture, livestock, aquaculture, and trawler fishing, all call for a high degree of skill-intensity and first-class management. Similar skills and managerial inputs are needed in the entire field of agro-industrial production and services.
We agree that more concentrated efforts and new approaches are needed to significantly upgrade the skill and management capacities of our farming communities and to improve other supporting services such as research, extension, the provision of credit and, above all, marketing and other port-harvest operations. In particular, we shall try, with increasing earnestness, to attract the young into agriculture, in order to build up a new generation of farmers to take full advantage of business opportunities and more sophisticated agricultural technology, thereby bringing growth and prosperity to the rural areas.
(b) The Manufacturing Sector
In manufacturing, the thrust of entrepreneurship should be directed towards reducing cost, maintaining high quality and increasing the competitiveness of our production with a view to establishing new product lines; to creating altogether new products; and to becoming more alive to export opportunities. The manufacturing sector must become more cost and quality conscious and its costs of production must become more internationally competitive. The sector must receive more support from local and regional Research and Development. It has to be continuously alert to opportunities for product development, adaptation, and innovation, if the Region is to exploit fully the uniqueness of its resources and endowments. In an age of electronics and informatics, it has to keep in step with the latest advances and the scope these provide for local business opportunities.
(c) The Services Sector
In the services sector, the Caribbean has a major stake in extending the already substantial local entrepreneurship in the hotel and tourist industry. There are other service industries where West Indians have also demonstrated a capacity to establish companies, offices, and institutions serving national, regional, and international markets. These include banking, insurance, engineering and architectural consultancy, shipping, air transport, medical, dental and educational services. Services are a rapidly expanding sector in the world economy, and new international opportunities arising in this sector must be explored. In several of these fields, West Indians have demonstrated the capacity to respond to international opportunities. Our professional bodies and institutions – especially our Universities – must build on this record, to which they themselves have contributed. They must increasingly focus on turning the professional skills in our communities to greater advantage, particularly in the earning of foreign exchange. We call upon them to study and act on this issue as a matter of urgency.
VI. The Interaction between the Private and Public Sectors
We realize that in a mixed economy, a broadly based and vigorous entrepreneurship requires for its emergence, an effective and harmonious interaction between the private and public sector. In the present context, it is necessary to emphasize the joint responsibility that develops upon Governments and the private sector in working together to achieve greater economic development. We are fully cognisant of the importance of a proper set of Government policies and measures and a high level of national economic management generally to provide a framework of incentives for effort and risk-taking, for the ploughing back of profits and for new investment – all in activities of high development priority.
Our governments are prepared to act as catalysts in starting new activities, especially where a long gestation period deters private initiative. And, as indicated below, they are ready to promote partnership arrangements between local and foreign investors, especially where this involves the acquisition of new technology or the creation of new export opportunities.
VII. Co-operation with Overseas Companies and Governments
We also wish our countries to enter into arrangements for partnership with foreign companies and enterprises, that would bring with them capital, technology and opportunities for local research and development, training and management opportunities for nationals and export opportunities. As already mentioned, Governments are even prepared to consider participating as partners with overseas investors, on a triangular basis that also includes local private investors, if such participation will significantly enhance the development impact of the project concerned.
We are also determined to take the fullest advantage of possibilities for co-operation within an inter-governmental framework. We are already pursuing openings under the Caribbean Basin Initiative. We shall try to implement more fully the provisions in the Third Lome Convention for agricultural and industrial co-operation, as well as those embodied in the Canada/CARICOM Trade and Economic Agreement. We look forward to concluding, on a CARICOM basis, similar bilateral arrangements with other developed countries.
We are particularly attracted to the prospects of entrepreneurial partnership with countries in Latin America and with other interested developing countries. We shall intensify our efforts to interest them in joining with us in exploiting the special endowment and export market access that our countries as well as theirs can offer.
VIII. Intra-CARICOM Co-operation and Reduction of the Brain Drain
We wish to encourage as much as possible closer co-operation between entrepreneurs in the Region. We welcome the formation of joint ventures and partnerships for the production of goods and services, and for co-operative sales efforts, both intra-regionally and extra-regionally. Subject tot he exigencies of the foreign exchange situation, we would like to see a larger flow of equity capital among member Countries. We shall do what we can to promote the development of a regional capital market, and to facilitate easier movement of skilled, professional, and management personnel within the Region.
Indeed, opportunities for working in a wider OECS or CARICOM setting, and so facing greater and more stimulating challenges, can help to retain highly professionals in the Region and to lure back, a larger number of those who have acquired high-level professional and other skills abroad. In this connection, Common Services and Posts of Experts manned by trained West Indians are an urgent requirement at both the OECS and CARICOM levels.
We recognise that, in spite of such efforts, the notorious brain-drain problem is likely to continue to affect us in the Caribbean very adversely. We are aware that we do not yet have the full answer to this problem. But, we are determined to address our minds, both individually and collectively, with greater intensity to this very difficult issue.
Both past and contemporary experience shows that, given the right opportunities, our people are capable of acquiring high levels of skills and attaining heights of excellence in every conceivable field of human endeavour. Having been given the opportunities, having acquired skills and having attained heights of excellence, they must be increasingly motivated and induced to exercise these skills and to excel within and not outside the Caribbean.