Loss of Innocence
David and Goliath
He Who Pays the Piper
Future of Colin Powell
Requiem for Broken Dream
Gifts from Paradise
War On Iraq
Bush One, Saddam One
Remember J. Merridith
State of In-Betweenity
Words Do Matter
The Lynching of Iraq
Before the Riots Begin
A Dog's Life
Passing of PM Charles
Fin. & Econ. Survival
In Walks 'Madam Hawke'
Impressions - 05 Elections
Deep Throat Revealed
Beyond The Pale
Gospel of Judas
Rise of Barack Obama
© J.B. Sampson
Financial and Economic Survival in the Global Economy
(Address to Dominica Multi-Purpose Organization (DAMPO), December 11, 2004)
Fellow Dominicans, it is a high honor and distinct privilege to be invited to address you today. Three months ago we celebrated on the 26th anniversary of Dominica's independence. An anniversary should always be a time for reflection and stock taking. It is an occasion to look back, to determine what we have done right, learn from our mistakes, and seek to apply the lessons that we have learnt in order to avoid future mistakes so as to better prepare ourselves for the challenges that lie ahead. Along those lines I am sure our compatriots in the mother land have devoted some time to this important exercise, amidst of course, of all the festive activities that form part of the annual celebrations. It would, however, be unfortunate if the emphasis were on just the festive part, at the exclusion of the serious introspection which must accompany such an occasion.
Tonight I invite you to join me in a few moments of reflection on the current situation in our homeland and ponder on the problems and difficulties that face us as a nation as we try to chart a course for ourselves in the global village which we inhabit.
It should be more than obvious to most that over a quarter century of independence has brought a number of challenges and uncertainties to our small island nation, some of which should have been anticipated, while others caught us totally unprepared. Any reflection over our nation's past has to take into account the lessons learnt and a determination to adopt new habits and modes of behavior if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past.
To some in 1978, the idea that a small island of some 80,000 people with a single agricultural export crop would be seeking political independence, seemed like a sad joke. But there was the will. What was absent was a realistic assessment of ourselves: What did we possess that we could build on? What sort of nation did we set out to build? We say in our motto "after God the Earth". What is the meaning of this in the context of forging a national character as we proceed down the path of developing our economy and society? I submit that those questions and many more were not considered, as it seemed at the time that we were overly preoccupied with the trappings of power and our place in the pecking order. It was as if we sought to build a house on sand and predictably, all came crashing down almost in time for the silver anniversary last year.
You all know what I am talking about. The economy came to a screeching halt and went into decline after years of poor fiscal management and a state of permanent denial of the real conditions we faced as an independent people. Add to this the fact that our political directorate sought to postpone the day of reckoning, hoping against reason that conditions would improve on their own and without having to make the tough political decisions which responsible directors of the nations future are expected to make. As a consequence, the much feared International Monetary Fund was called in as a last resort to help us put our fiscal house in order. And the solutions did not come without pain. I credit the late Prime Minister Pierre Charles for biting the bullet in adopting the politically difficult measures of tax increases and spending cuts necessary to bring about the desired changes. Fortunately, the worst seems to be behind us now. The economy has stabilized; but it would be dangerous to sit back and rest on our oars. The work is not yet done. The more difficult task of promoting and sustaining growth has not yet begun.
There are those who say that it is more important to look forward than to look back. I stand before you convinced that it is as important to look back as it is to look forward.
Over the last 25 years the prevailing view had been that the single most important factor in our country's development was the Foreign Investor. Our leaders traveled extensively in pursuit of the pot of gold that lay beyond our shores. Hopes were built, only to be dashed again and again. If records were kept researchers would find innumerable deals that were touted as the answer to job creation for the legions of high school graduates, only to find hollow dreams that remain unfulfilled.
At last reality has begun to set in. Dominica's development rests in the hands of its citizens. Foreign participation is welcome, but ultimately, our country's development is a function of local entrepreneurship and ingenuity.
Let me for a moment discuss the experience of a country much larger than Dominica and the path that this country took on its way to development. All of you may be familiar with India, the second most populous country of our planet. India shares with us the distinction of having been part of the vast British Empire. It was among the first to gain independence from Britain at the end of World War II. The question that I posed earlier in terms of who we are, what assets we possess and how do we build on them, must have been uppermost in the mind of India's first prime minister, Nehru. Having done his calculation, he concluded that India's hopes lie in the development of its human resources. As a consequence, he committed his government and his country to building a first class educational infrastructure to produce a first class labor force second to none in the global economy. Of course, back then, the world 'global' was not in vogue, nor could he have imagined the development of world trade that permitted the evolution of "outsourcing" that has become part and parcel of the new global economy. After some fifty years of perfecting its formula for development based on nurturing its human resources, India is now known as an incubator of technology and technology outsourcing to the point where they have become the envy of the world. They do not possess oil or mineral resources. Their strength is in their human capital. Their leadership was smart enough to identify their potential strength and embarked upon a course of sharpening their human capital resources through education. They now possess a human capital base that is second to none. And what more important, they have managed to keep their wages low relative to North American standards. It is no wonder when you do business with an American company over the phone, more often than not, you are talking with someone with an accent that is not quite American.
Are there lessons we as Dominicans can learn from the Indian experience? I submit that there are. First, in order to deal with the future, you have to prepare yourself in the present. We need to do some soul searching to discover our strengths and weakness. And having done this self examination the next stage involves the hard work of self improvement and development of the skill set necessary to equip ourselves to compete from a position of strength.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that all business involves some form of barter. We exchange something of value that we possess in order to obtain some other thing of value that someone else possesses. The operative word here is "value". If we expect something of value without the ability to deliver something of comparable value, there is no trade. Without this idea of reciprocity, there is no trade; perhaps only a hand out. And this is largely what we Dominica have come to expect in our dealings with foreign businessmen since independence. This has been the reality and this explains to some extent, the lack of accomplishment, the lack of success as we witness one dream after another flounder, because they were based on the false premise that we could reap without toil.
Ensuring survival in the global economy requires a high level of diligence and preparation on three levels: On the individual level, the family level and the national level.
The individual level is perhaps the most crucial in terms of providing the catalyst for growth and stability of economic performance. For it is the individual that embodies all the desirable qualities necessary to ensure growth and efficiency of production. Among those desirable qualities are:
At the family level issues of character and adherence to sound principles, are cultivated and nurtured. In order for us to be good workers we must first be good citizens. It is at home that we learn the virtues of honesty and hard work, where we learn to give our best no matter what the endeavor, where we learn that respect for the rules are more important than whether we win or lose.
To sum it all up, that which we call the nation is nothing more than the summation of individual homes, and individual families who collectively define and determine the face we present to the world. At every level, economic and financial survival depends on the skills we have learnt, the intensity with which we focus on our fields of endeavor and the honesty which we bring to our occupation or profession.
It has often been said that there is no free lunch in the business world. For those like us who have been the recipient of foreign largesse in the past, first under colonialism and later in the post independence period, I dare say that the era of foreign hand outs is over. Economic and financial success going forward must be predicated on the firm belief in our own ability to compete globally with the resources we have and the skills we have developed.
On this note I encourage you, the Diaspora, who have been blessed with the opportunity to live and work in this country to find ways to share your knowledge, experience and skills with others in the Motherland. If we embrace the concept of a "borderless" Dominica, it is not difficult to imagine the dawn of an era where "foreign investment flows" is redefined to largely include your investments in eco tourism development, small business development, and the myriad other opportunities which are not yet exploited. It is this collective effort that will determine whether we stagnate as a nation or whether we move forward as a small, yet economically efficient entity where every citizen can and does contribute to the national output.
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this glorious occasion and I wish you God speed in all your endeavors.