Barbados - Taken by Allwen Vollmer
  • Barbados - Taken by Allwen Vollmer

On January 29, 2012 the headlines blasted the move to number one on the UK charts of Barbadian, born and bred, band Cover Drive with their song “Twilight.” The group joins in this measure of success with another Barbadian pop star, Rihanna, who is known the world over. Yet these examples of success are showcased in local media among countless other articles highlighting the challenges facing this small island state. Dr. DeLisle Worrel, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, spoke openly about the increasing national debt, higher unemployment rates, and rising inflation. Barbados depends heavily on international markets for imports, as well as on income generation through industries like tourism and financial services.

The success of these musicians speaks to the potential of Barbadians and the benefits of creating opportunities for individuals to develop and utilize their talents across sectors. The pursuit of economic independence, therefore, becomes much more than a RIGHT, it is a personal RESPONSIBILITY. Through the use of new information communication technologies (ICTs) for entrepreneurs to innovate and market their services abroad, and the movement of people and goods to more countries across the world, Barbados, in turn, can survive and grow.

Interestingly, the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation, a charity formed in 2010, envisions Barbados as “the #1 entrepreneurial hub in the world by 2020.” It is an ambitious endeavour built around five core pillars – finance, government policy, education and talent, mentorship, and business facilitation. The foundation recognizes that the most important resource on the island is its people. Rightly so, given that Barbados is an island of 166 square miles with a population of approximately 280,000, and no significant natural resources barring sun, sea, and sand. Creating entrepreneurs and innovators across sectors is key to competing within local and international markets.

The Barbados Government’s investment in the provision of free health and education is admirable. However, considering that it is people who trade, it is not enough. As an article in the Barbados Advocate (July 2010) suggests, the sectors in Barbados are not as productive as other markets abroad. The Mauritius Strategy for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) highlights the importance of the effective use of ICTs for increased productivity and international competitiveness. In essence, a small business or budding entrepreneur could utilize new technologies to streamline procedures and increase business output. Plus, in the case of engaging in foreign markets, the Internet offers many opportunities to facilitate trade.

The economic crises has severely affected the economies of the traditional trading partners, like Europe and the US, marking a decline in formally lucrative industries, including tourism, relative to previous years. Yet, the Standard Chartered Annual Report in 2012 speaks of growth in Asia and Africa. The growth in these markets presents new opportunities for entrepreneurs if they were brave enough to engage. The fact that Barbadian businessman Sir Kyffin Simpson is one of the major suppliers of BMWs in China is a further testimony that there is much to gain in engaging with countries in the East.

Many will want to place the responsibility for the nation’s growth in the hands of the Government. After all, it is the Government that creates policies and passes legislation that will help protect and empower citizens. Lest we forget, votes are power and Government is not able to do it alone. Furthermore, in the absence of strong leaders and visionaries, it is the people that will band together and implement strategies like crowd/angel funding and mentorship. It is the people that will assist with social programs for actualizing the economic empowerment of all citizens at home and abroad.

The future of Barbados, therefore, requires that individuals collectively realize their potential by seeking, offering, and taking advantage of opportunities available to them. It is by using information communication technologies, innovative and entrepreneurial ventures, and a focus on new, often emerging markets for export of goods and services that the country will survive. In 2012 and beyond, citizens of Barbados must be seen, and see themselves, as THE solution for the nation’s development.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2012 Assignments: Op-Eds.


Dear Juliette

Well, now this is something we have in India (and I am presuming, almost world over) as well. People vote and then leave it all for the government to take care of. But the government can't do everything! In simpler words, who or what is the government but common people? A select few can make policies,but the implementation still lies entirely on the common citizens, who, as the office bearers execute the policies. That apart, change is also a cultural process and unless people take ownership, they won't push for change. Thanks for this timely argument! And, its great to know of the economic ambition of Barbados - really impressive!

Stella Paul Twitter: @stellasglobe


As I mentioned in my article, it is all a work in progress and many Barbadians, including myself, struggle in taking the first steps to realise their dreams and being advocates in their area(s) of interest. That being said there are many examples of people that get involved.

Furthermore, I do not want to leave people feeling as thought there are no barriers and that people do not have a challenging journey ahead. Quite the contrary!

However, this piece was really for the individual to see themselves as leaders and catalysts for change. Why not? If we are to strive for empowerment, it cannot only be for the empowerment of only one person or a select few people. Also, why is it that we maintain such a paternal relationship with our government? In democracy is it not our government that works for us? Should we not as individuals and as a collective lobby to create the type of environment that allows for the realisation of our dreams? It is not only the right of each and every person, but as I said it is a responsibility.

It is our responsibility to ask for what we want. It is our responsibility to lend a hand to others if we can help to realise their dream. It could be as easy as a phone call. It is our responsibility to activate networks and provide mentorship. In absence of funding for small businesses, how about making better use of 'meeting turns' or 'sou-sou' as a type of interest free lending dynamic?

This is why I challenge the individual to got out there and contribute because he or she is valuable. It is also a reminder, in a sense, to myself.

You are so right. Governments can only do so much to create an enabling environment for citizens to experience economic and social development but it rests on the citizens to take the opportunities presented to them and use them for their own good. Otherwise we will end up with states full of citizens that are dependent on social welfare, which in my view is damaging to economic growth. From your piece I gather that your government has done one major thing that enables citizens to grow their individual potential, that is providing free health and education, which is a milestone achievement. However, I would like to know what other policies and legislation exist to protect and empower citizens to find their ground. i ask because I come from a country where the nation is highly educated, unemployment is high and regulations for starting businesses, importing or exporting goods are tight and difficult hence crippling citizens chances of doing things for themselves. Are the regulations in Barbados much different?



Hi MaDube,

There is alot that the government has done to create opportunities such as the following:

  1. Singing onto trade agreements that offer opportunities for trade

e.g. Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), bi-lateral trade agreements with countries like Brazil, China, now negotiating with Canada, various countries in Latin America. Additionally, through the EPA there is access to the french speaking islands in the Caribbean. We are also part of the Caribbean Community. In practice we have a common market for free trade between the member states, which include in varying degrees countries like Guyana, Suriname, Belize and Haiti. In practice, people have encountered difficulties but it does work for the most part.

  1. The government, through funds from various external donor organisations, also set up institutions to help guide interested persons through various processes and to help them gain access to funds that can build their capacity.

Examples are the Economic Partnership Agreement Units and others that focus on trade in services e.g Barbados Coalition of Service Industries, for creative industries Invest Barbados helps to promote businesses and persons in that sector and attract investment Then on a local level there is the Barbados Investment and Development Cooperation along with the Small Business Association that help individuals that want to star their own business to navigate around business proposal writing accounts etc. They offer services to help develop things, training and workshops and provide links to other entities that can help their businesses to grow.

Even for young people they have set up entities like the Barbados Youth Business Trust amongst others that are subsidised by government and young persons can gain access.


There is still a way to go to get customs procedures etc. up to scratch to allow persons to conduct business a lot more easily. There is a lot more streamlining to be done to make business for export a lot easier and less costly. With the current environment, access to credit is a major challenge, hence why I mentioned adopting innovative strategies.

Furthermore, our currency is tied to the US currency at US$1 to BBD$1.98, so the Barbados Central Bank maintains strong controls over foreign currency. For example, we need special permission to acquire US cash over $490. We can get traveller's cheques but even that has a cap amount. Of course, depending on the industry, tax for raw materials etc is something else, as well as the time it take to clear goods from the port.

Yet another challenge is our ability to easily conduct business online. Banks are working on it but again the currency dilemma and other legislative factors create a challenge.

From a social development perspective:

Free health and education The current government passed a policy to allow school children in uniform to travel for free Labour unions in Barbados are strong... very strong.. which is a blessing and a curse all in one.

The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation that I spoke of is an example of how Business Foundations are seeking to do their part:

E.g. they had a Wifi- Wi Not? Advocacy Drive towards making Barbados completely wireless. They did not achieve 100% in a way they wanted it to be but the volunteers did it another way by asking businesses to open up their wireless to allow persons to gain access and work/ study from anywhere on the island. In that way they got some success. They also do a competition in schools call the $20 challenge that creates an opportunity for students to create their own business from $20 and they can win prizes. Some students pool the resources together.This year the Ministry of Education has partnered with them to gain access to all schools.

Anyway I am done bombarding you with information. The thing is that Govt has more to go but civil society and the business community has to help. In Barbados we have something call the Social Partnership that is developing from year to year. That is perhaps, to me, one of the most important policy approaches.

If you have any more questions, please let me know

Wow! Indeed they have done a lot and it remains for the citizens to take up the reins and move forward. Your article could not have come at a more opportune moment because your kind of activism is exactly what is needed to give people the impetus to realise that they are sitting on goldmines. I hope some mainstream local paper gets to publish your piece so that it may be read by as many people as possible.

On a lighter note, if the Barbadians do not utilise these opportunities, please bring them to Zimbabwe. There are people dying just to get these kinds of opprotunities!




I know very little about your country and I struggle to think of what role I would play if I were a citizen given that there are so many inter-related issues.

The benefit Barbados has is that it is quite a peaceful country. From independence until now there has been political stability and a certain level of continuity from government to government. Of course corruption exists, but not to the level that your country has to tolerate.

My sister, this message is just as important to you all is it is to us regardless of the difference in the stage of development. Your diaspora as well plays a key role in investing in individuals and lobbying from abroad.

My fear is that corruption trumps any effort to progress and becomes a feature in the society at all levels. It is like a disease.

I look forward to knowing more about your country through your articles.

A beautiful piece, government should provide conducive environment which in turn foster development,with this the economy will thrive,thank you for a thoughtful write up.




This so true. We have more to do for the ideal environment but there are many ways to skin a cat as we say. It is important for people to push and try to do something and help each other out.

For more information please see my previous response.

Blessings to you my sister.


It's impressive how much you know about the social policies and programs that are available as well as the limitations that exist!

Also like the way that your responses to audience comments further articulates your passion to develop public empowerment!

"Many will want to place the responsibility for the nation’s growth in the hands of the Government." This is ironic yet how true all over the world! How do you best see yourself facilitating public empowerment - as a potential government representative or as a business entrepreneur / citizen, or ...?

Many thanks for the thoughtful essay!

I believe we are all on a journey to understand ourselves and our destiny in the world. May we walk together in beauty on that path! - Odessa

Hi Odessa,

I would consider myself an advocate for the most part given my theoretical knowledge of trade, regional integration and the like.

Recently, I have decided to take the leap myself and register a formal social business. From day one I can see the barriers facing entrepreneurs. To register a business alone takes about a week, to incorporate it... expensive and time consuming as well. I heard a story of another entrepreneur that wanted to register another business under the overall holding company and was asked to write a letter to herself granting permission to have another company under that company.... BISERK Right... but true. Most things require your presence at the government office. Time, money and energy are gold as an entrepreneur.

So I would say that my contribution would be two fold. To actually be an entrepreneur and to offer gentle pressure (advocacy) to streamline and correct the procedures that inhibit action on the part of the entrepreneurs.

It will be a long journey but a necessary one. Usually the small businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs have to set the pace then everything else follows.

Wish me luck!


Lovely article Juilette! The first thing that attracted me to this article was the title. Especially your use of #1, it's a common phrase I use to encourage youth leaders (i.e. 'we're number 1!). After reading your very informative OpEd, I couldn't help but to smile from ear-to-ear because despite that you live all the way on the other side of the world, your message is the same as mine when I use the term #1. You said it perfectly: "The future of [the world], therefore, requires that individuals collectively realize their potential by seeking, offering, and taking advantage of opportunities available to them." It's all about active citizenship... ownership of one's destiny!

Keep up the excellent work!!

Yes Rahel,

It is amazing that everyone seems to be on the same wave length as it were. This is something I feel very passionate about. I think that many of our countries lack visionary leaders in the positions of political power. The ones that have the financial power are not going to be willing to 'spread it around' but there is still hope.

We each have it in us... and together we can.

Thanks for commenting.


Dear Juliette, What a thoughtful, well written, informative article that is both concerned and solutions-oriented. Barbados has clearly been affected by this global economic crisis hitting heavily here at home in the United States. You've raised some important and powerful ideas for how businesses, government, and individuals can invest in the people to think creatively about innovative ways to achieve economic growth and good governance. Investing in human capital is key to development, and I think even more so when, as you said, your country faces limited natural resources. Though it may take time for things to turn around, I think your solutions are important for long term sustainable growth and empowerment. We can all take them to heart.

Here in the United States, for example, government debt has resulted in budget cuts, and education has suffered. Schools are overcrowded and under-resourced. How can we build a generation of leaders in entrepreneurship, business, technology, public and social service, etc., when the youth struggle to learn to read? The economic crisis has exacerbated serious problems in society but hopefully this will inspire our leaders to notice the gravity of the situation and invest in building a strong future. They should be getting advice from you, I think!

Thank you for this op-ed!


First of all thank you for your comment. The overall question of the economy is something that I know concerns us all. We often think that it is too big for a single individual to contain. But if we all thought progressively, imagine the impact.

Anyway, I wanted to touch on the question of education. We have been fortunate since, pretty much our independence, to have had a leader - Errol Barrow - who decided to offer free education to the masses. I mentioned in my article that it is not enough because I recognise two things: 1. it is a good foundation but needs to be amended to suit the 21st century demands on an individual and 2. people are slipping through the cracks if they do not learn one way.

We have a high literacy rate but there are still persons that learn at a slower rate and most alternative learners do not have a space in the public education system. The public education system is only now slowly incorporating teaching style that cater to various person's learning styles and this is also important.

In the case of the US, it is very unfortunate that education and health suffer. Growing up in a country where access if free, even though not perfect, I feel as though it makes a huge difference. Not only in economic empowerment but also social and political empowerment. Can a country truly be democratic and can people really participate in an economy if they are not able to communicate and understand simple to complex information?

In my mind it is something worth fighting for. Otherwise we all run the risk of undoing what the leaders of our previous generations have fought so hard to achieve just to save a buck.

That is my two cents.



I agree completely!! Very well said. I think our current government is looking at ways to make both education and health care more effective. The economic situation is making it very difficult to give the public school systems the resources they need to address the needs of the many students they serve. President Obama worked with congressmen and health care providers to come up with a plan that was a step closer to universal health care, but it's faced significant opposition from those who oppose any move of government to regulate and force the private sector to do anything. The past few years have been frustrating but interesting to watch how our communities and our leaders react and respond to new, difficult circumstances.

Thank you for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully :)

It is something that I believe very strongly in. i.e. the strength of human beings to help each other and themselves towards their own empowerment and in doing so it has a ripple effect for a country and the world.

Your writing is superb. I have enjoyed reading your piece and I agree that citizens should be given an opportunity to demand for accountability from government but also be given information of how they can hold government accountable

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Hi Grace,

Thank you for your feedback!

The change in perception as to how the citizens engage with government and their input into policies and legislation is a must.

As I look around this consciousness is rising.


Juliette, You say it so well. By encouraging personal responsibility, you raise the bar for individuals to examine their personal goals and how they can take action to build a better world. Theoretically, governments will respond in kind to support the entrepreneurial spirits of the citizenry. You make important points in a thoughtful, well-written op-ed. Cheers, Sally


What you write feels so true to me. Just imagine what could be possible if we could all see and embrace our responsibility, and move away from being entitled and a victum. We are so much more powerful from a place of owning our responsibility.

Thank you for your contribution to catalyzing greater ownership. Clearly , a message for all of us to hear.


Hi Sara,

I think in this big bad world we often forget how much power we possess. It is so easy to see it in others but not too often in ourselves. Change and empowerment, as I am realizing, is a slow and painful yet rewarding process.

Thank you for your feedback!


Your article is very informative, stimulating and impressive.

It is really important that citizens to get to the point where they think more on what they can give and not what they can get from the Government.

I love your entrepreneurial spirit and share Madube's hope that your piece get's very wide readership, even so, beyond Barbados.

Best Wishes