are many people who have marveled at Barbados resilience
over the years as far as its economic policies are concerned,
and that countrys ability to maintain its $2 exchange
rate to the US dollar. When one compares this to T&T,
with all its oil and gas wealth, Barbados must be doing
something right and so it may not be necessary to look as
far away as Singapore, Iceland, Finland or Ireland, (where
economic comparisons seem to be continually made) for a
best practices model.
If one examines the global competition it simply fortifies
the view that this northeasterly neighbour our size is blazing
a trail worthy of note. According to Report 2007-2008, published
by the World Economic Forum (WEF), competitiveness is measured
by the WEF as the set of institutions, policies and
factors that determine the level of productivity of a country.
Competitiveness has been divided into 12 pillars including
institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, health
and primary education, higher education and training, goods
market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market
sophistication, technological readiness, market size, business
sophistication and innovation. The WEF also combines this
scientific approach with a perception survey.
The forum further divides the countries into different stages
of development (based on Michael Porters model); thus
if countries are at different stages of development, different
pillars will affect them differently. For instance, the
best way for St Lucia to improve its competitiveness would
not be the same for Zimbabwe.
A simple comparison of T&T to Barbados finds the latter
scores higher in all pillars but twomacroeconomic
stability and market size. Why is it that Barbados
overall global competitiveness index ranking
is 50 and T&Ts 84? Even Jamaicas is at 78.
More worrying may be the ranking of some of the pillars
that make up the overall rating. Here are some examples.
In the institutions area, Barbados ranks 25th
in the world and T&T an extremely poor 92.
How is it that with no oil money Barbados infrastructure
ranking is 29 and T&Ts is way lower at 69? And
in health and primary education, Barbados is
9th; while T&T is 62nd. This in spite of our macroeconomic
stability ranking coming in at 16 and Barbados
Everyone knows that education is the key to pulling oneself
out of the doldrums, and again Barbados has a strong ranking
in the area of higher education and training
with its ranking of 32. T&T is 70.
With all its oil and gas industries, one would have thought
that T&T would get a good ranking in the technological
readiness category. But, here again, Barbados
ranking of 34th in the world, far exceeds T&Ts
On the private sector side, we fare no better. While Barbados
ranks 66th in business sophistication, T&T
is at 77. In the area of innovation Barbados
is at 56, again out-pointing T&T, which is at 82.
In the overall Business Competitiveness Index
T&Ts ranking has fallen from 35 in 2001 to 74
in 2007, compared with Barbados at 41 in 2007.
These are enviable but very worrying statistics and should
not just be dismissed at the flick of a wrist, without detailed
analysis. The index paints a very bleak picture of T&T
and unless we sit up and analyse why this is so and take
appropriate action to reverse this direction, we will find
that the slip in ratings turns into a slide, one that may
not be too simple to halt, much less reverse.
If that happens we could have real difficulty in addressing
the main issues, especially without the present day oil
and gas revenues.