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"Partnering With The New Caribbean Investor" - Feature address Prime Minister of St. Lucia Honourable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony to...

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Despite its imperfections, the Caribbean has always inspired the world with its sheer capacity for renewal, its cultural passions, and its indomitable spirit.  That spirit is reflected in the genius of our writers, sportsmen and women, musicians, intellectuals and indeed, our entrepreneurs.   


As a region repeatedly and increasingly thrown back on our indigenous resources, we are however, searching rather deliberately for similarly spirited investment relationships which have the capacity to renew, sustain and inspire.  These relationships cannot be the exploitative arrangements of years passed.  Rather, they must envisage and make provision for changes in the relative roles and capacities of investment partners.  



Meaningful economic development has to be a joint venture.  In any such venture, there will be changes over time which alter the relative perspectives of the players.  Such an evolution is as desirable as it is inevitable.  Trade and investment environments are not static.  Nor are the circumstances of trading partners or collaborating companies. 


Not surprisingly then, Caribbean perspectives have altered significantly since our initial investment forays based on theories of industrialisation by invitation.   Our economies, our circumstances and our demographics have matured.  In the context of an evolving global economy and our own changing economic reality, the Caribbean should then be seeking investors who can be long-term development partners. 


This need not imply any dilution of profit objectives.  On the contrary, many enlightened global companies are coming to realize that no corporation can long prosper at the expense of the community which hosts it.  Socially responsible companies - of the type the Caribbean should seek out - recognize that a long-term perspective on performance and profits is far more attractive to socially responsible shareholders.  


Evolving global and regional realities offer us an expanding horizon of trade and investment opportunities, particularly in the technology and service sectors.  We must therefore present ourselves as a new breed of Caribbean entrepreneurs who come to the table with their own strengths, ideas and articulated needs, seeking to thrive, to prosper and to leave their mark upon the world.  




Many of the Caribbean’s corporate giants have proven that this is possible.  Many have risen from the ashes of post-colonial economies to create corporate empires.  In many cases, they have built new strengths around core competencies.  Others still have become literal re-shapers of national and regional landscapes.  Everyday, for the last several hundred years, Caribbean people have prospered by trading with the world. 


When our only commodity was our labour, we went to England, Panama, Canada and Curacao.  As we mastered the money economy, we went to trade in New York, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the French West Indies and beyond.  Even our hucksters have mastered currencies, languages and innovative trade barriers.  They continue to assess prices, rates of exchange, the cost of travel and transport, seeking and finding trade opportunities where demand can meet supply.  Indeed, we have a history of creating opportunity from the little we inherited.




Whatever the process, we are now beginning to study that history and learn from it.  We are learning to be proud enough to hold our early pioneers up to the light of example.  I know that in our small societies it is no easy task to create heroes.  But in the business schools of developed countries this is science of success.  Personal and corporate histories are studied and celebrated as much for their successes as for their failures.  Corporate pioneers find audiences in ivy-league universities, and business schools use their living legends to inspire and instruct.  Surely, there are lessons for us as our region struggles with issues of economic sustainability and global relevance.


What we are also learning is that we can develop new partnerships which bridge public policy and private enterprise.  Many regional governments are now liberalizing their own thinking to embrace the wider private sector in meaningful relationships and joint ventures.  These partnerships go beyond the usual subsidies and incentives traditionally offered to direct foreign investment.  Certainly, in the case of St. Lucia we have created special packages and private sector support mechanisms to direct investment into critical areas.  We have adopted a policy of extending the same privileges to smaller domestic and regional investors as those made available to large multinationals. 


Moreover, as investment leans increasingly to the service sectors, we have come to recognize human and intellectual capital as major assets irrespective of the scale and size of the physical plant which accompanies them.   We also believe that we must be liberal enough in our thinking to actively support pioneers of commerce and industry; not merely based on size and scale, but also because of their sheer impact on the national psyche. 


In the face of global economic uncertainties it is important to send the message of success to aspiring entrepreneurs.  It is also necessary to shift the national expectation from “employee mode” to “entrepreneur mode”.  In other words, we must see ourselves as investors in our own economic destiny, rather than as mere suppliers of labour.  Governments that are successful in creating economic environments to nurture this process can be the shapers of a new economic legacy.




I say this because the new entrepreneur does not fit the old mould of conventionality.  In a world which values innovation, which encourages change, and which constantly seeks new knowledge and new experience, the entrepreneur of the future will be the maverick, the radical thinker, and the non-conformist.  This has major implications for investment policy.


As we seek to develop this new breed of entrepreneur, our investment infrastructure must focus on the delivery of that elusive commodity called “confidence”.  That is, it must nurture the belief that we have the will, the power, and the resources to secure the future, not necessarily alone, but in partnership with others of similar persuasion.  That confidence, built on a knowledge of past successes, can inspire and inform a new generation of world-class entrepreneurs. 




From that perspective, we can also fashion new development strategies in the face of declining traditional industries.  Accordingly, investment cannot be seen as a fixed deal in a time warp.  Investment of the kind which suits the Caribbean, must be regenerative, constantly renewing  itself and satisfying the thirst for new products, new services and new markets.  The old adage “more of the same” cannot persist.


Conceptualisation, communication, innovation, and information are the commodities of the future and the thresholds to new knowledge-based industries.  Our economies therefore, with their inherent adaptive capacity - as demanded by the need to accommodate constantly changing global trends - are well positioned to be responsive, and proactive. 



Some three decades after political independence, The Caribbean is a region at the crossroads, with all the attendant options and opportunities that this suggests.  The region has tremendous potential vested in its imaginative people and its physical attributes.  Nevertheless, its immediate political, economic, and social circumstances urgently demand rational, consistent and consensual approaches to the utilisation of its finite resources. 

In matching resources to development options, it is critical that informed and enlightened choices be made which optimise investment for sustainable development over the long-term.  Thus, the region faces a number of unresolved dualities which in fact enhance the value of long-term investment relationships between players at all levels.   


The region offers the opportunity for new cooperative approaches to direct foreign investment premised upon the articulation of sound economic development objectives.  The clearer is national trade and development policy, the easier it is to define those approaches and to invite corporate players into mutually beneficial  ventures.


Such a macro-economic vision, articulated and broadened through a process of consultation, advocacy and determined leadership, could appropriately embrace all civil society in a coherent drive towards economic and commercial objectives in which investment and investors play responsible and rewarding roles.  Thus, both private investment objectives and public development objectives can be merged to create profitable partnerships based upon an intended coincidence of need and opportunity.  The anticipated result is an engagement of critical social, economic and corporate forces and an acceleration of the processes of national and corporate growth.  




Most Caribbean economies are now managed by new and relatively progressive administrations.  Many of these enjoy healthy parliamentary majorities.  If this reflects their electorates’ disenchantment with former regimes, it also reflects the weighty expectation that governments with unambiguous mandates, must address and resolve the legacy of economic and social issues that affect daily life.  Short-lived, exploitative investment cannot therefore be the answer.


All our countries face similar declines in their traditional commodity exports.   This is countered by an expanding and relatively diversified services sector.    This is where the new growth must come from.  Liberalisation and modernisation in the telecommunications sector is just one example of the new development platforms that support such growth.



 As a relatively visible, stable and ideally located regional economy, with a tradition of original and independent thinking, the Caribbean is a well placed haven for sustainable, mutually rewarding investment partnerships.  These should be premised upon national objectives, and structured so that the host country becomes the primary architect of the process. 


International development organisations can then play the role of technical, advisory and facilitating partners.  Joining them would be international corporations, systematically selected as partners of the Governments and people of the region. The idea is to produce a synergy of effort, manifested in a series of coordinated and sustained interventions, that will produce discernable and measurable streams of benefits to all partners.




St. Lucia, for example, intends to initiate a process of national dialogue, the primary objective of which will be to create a vehicle for collective decision-making and collaboration on matters of national economic priority.  Among these, are issues affecting economic creativity, international competitiveness, and social cohesion.  Rationalising and mobilizing human resources in the cause of sustainable development is therefore critical, as is the readiness of the workforce for new knowledge-based industries. 


Our region then, needs a renewed emphasis on creative thinking and innovation.  We must be bold enough to discard conventional responses which, despite their easy acceptability, do not offer sustainable solutions.  This is as true for education as it is for commerce, economics and politics.  I believe the relevant phrase is “thinking outside the box”, a process which characterises those new analytical, perceptive and imaginative people who are globally sought after as corporate strategists, systems engineers, software designers and the like.


These are the entrepreneurs and investment partners of the future.  These are the creators and brokers of intellectual property.  These are the wealth-creators of tomorrow.  Our ability to develop, attract and retain such skills in the service of our region will be a major determinant of our collective ability to survive and prosper.




The technology revolution, despite its awesome potential for marginalizing the weak and the vulnerable, is also levelling the playing field of opportunity.  That is to say, the cost of access to information and communication technology continues to decline.  What is more, Internet users are predominantly Anglophone.  The fastest growing techno-market is the United States.  And, the Caribbean, armed with English, western aculturalisation, and physical proximity, is well poised to market its communication skills to the world. 




In its relentless march, technology is also creating a whole generation of small producers and service specialists who sell their skills to the world.  It has opened new opportunities for bilateral trade and has broken all the normal concepts of exclusive economic space.  As services emerge as the world’s new primary commodities, there is an increasingly blurred line between real and virtual trade.  There is even a redefinition of product and process that challenges the traditional legislative and regulatory functions of national governments.


Nevertheless, as competition continues to be the watchword, our ability to carve out exclusive economic space will be increasingly challenged.  This is why we must amalgamate commercial and social interests for future growth.  Just as corporate mergers characterise global industry, governments too must merge agendas with the corporate world.  In this context, we need to speedily remove impediments to the integration of regional economies, as well as those which inhibit regional and international firms.  By so doing, we provide a broader, firmer foundation for growth and optimise returns on investment.


It has been said, ladies and gentlemen, that the future belongs not to the traditionalists but to the hybrids; those adaptable creatures who can exist simultaneously in multiple and complex universes.  Needless to say, our universe is changing.  It is also expanding exponentially.  We can debate the nature of that change and infinitum, or we can prepare for it and participate in its transition. 


There is no doubt in my mind that our region is home to some of the most progressive minds on the planet.  Our evolution as stable progressive and peaceful democracies is testimony to that fact.  What we must now create and sustain is an economic environment, which seeks less to regulate, and more to facilitate the emergence of the new investment partnerships in which the Caribbean entrepreneur plays a meaningful role. 




Beyond the immediate future, it is almost futile to try to predict the micro-details of events and possibilities that will confront us.  Both history and logic suggest that trying to contain or constrain human endeavour is equally unprofitable.  Therefore, what we must do, and do quickly, is to facilitate universal access to opportunity for all our entrepreneurs and their counterparts in the world beyond.  That is the greater challenge and it requires dynamic, responsive, responsible leadership.  In this scenario leadership can no longer be the exclusive domain of government or the private sector.  It is a challenge facing the whole of civil society and it requires and demands our collective imagination and our combined energies.


This symposium promises to be a forum for such pursuits and I must express my gratitude to the Commonwealth Business Council for the singular honour of being the featured speaker today.  I must also thank the Commonwealth Secretariat, Scotia Bank and British Airways for sponsoring this event and providing a living example of partnership in progress.


Finally, I believe that our collective task is to achieve that translation of perceived constraints into profitable advantage.  And that ladies and gentlemen, is a state of mind, a function of perception.  If we are indeed the hybrids of history, we must learn how to prosper from that fact.  We must now see ourselves not as children of adversity, but as masters of diversity in a world that welcomes an infinite spectrum of human endeavour: noble in reason, infinite in faculty and admirable in action.


I thank you.





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