Self-employment on the rise in the Caribbean – World Bank

Go Lean Commentary

Photo - Caribbean Commercial FishermenThere is the desire to make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play. At the root, any serious attempt at this objective must start with the creation of new jobs. The book Go Lean … Caribbean is one such attempt. It presents the roadmap to implement the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), and with this effort, create 2.2 million new jobs over a 5 year period. That is the summary of the roadmap. But the “devil is in the details”. How to create so many jobs in such a short interval?

In considering the lessons from other societies, it can be seen that one key is entrepreneurship.

The experiences of North America and Europe indicate that small firms are primary sources for new employment. While entrepreneurship is not new for the Caribbean, the CU strategy of focused incubators is new. This requires support services to ignite and spur start-up companies. The exact details of the commission to help entrepreneurship are spelled out on Page 28 of the book. The book relates that successful entrepreneurship requires a new community ethos; the most crucial help coming from government authorities in protecting property rights.

MIAMI, United States – The World Bank says while self-employment is on the rise in the Caribbean, quality jobs remain elusive.

The Washington-based financial institution, which launched a new report here, said almost 70 per cent of employees in the Caribbean work for businesses with five or fewer employees, compared to 60 per cent in Latin America.

But while entrepreneurship is often considered to be a driver of development, the World Bank said the resulting companies grow at a much slower rate than in other middle-income regions.

Furthermore, the high percentage of small businesses reflects a lack of quality jobs in the region’s larger or multinational businesses, the bank said.

Declaring that “this should ring warning bells,” the report notes that, in the Caribbean, almost 70 per cent of business owners have opened a business out of fear of losing their job or because jobs were not available.

The report notes that, in the past 10 years, Latin America and the Caribbean have “benefited significantly from favourable economic tailwinds”.

But it said, as these tailwinds die “growth has to come from within” adding that innovation was “key if the Caribbean is to build upon the social gains of recent years”.

The report notes that Caribbean firms develop new products less frequently than their counterparts in other developing regions.

It said in Jamaica, for example, the rate of product development is less than half than that of Thailand or Macedonia, adding that while Grenada topped the region for new product development, six of the “worst offenders” also hailed from the Caribbean.

The report did not identify these “worst offenders” but cites four possible reasons for the less frequent development of new products in the Caribbean – Human capital, intellectual property, risk taking and logistics.

It said while science, technology and engineering graduates are at a premium, it’s a scarcity that has a direct effect on innovation.

Closely related to the quality of education the report recognises this will be a major challenge for the region.

The report notes that with separate laws govern-ing copyright in every country “the complicated panorama lends less protection to the product creators, deterring much-needed investment for new product research and development”.

It said a “deep cultural shame of failure is hindering innovation by dissuading entrepreneurs from taking risks”.

The report states that this was evident as much in “individual reticence at a business level as in the low levels of investment in research and development, especially from the private sector” and that modernising ports, transport and customs can add a competitive edge to products from the region.

Currently, it said poor public services, communication links and transport infrastructure are hindering efforts to boost production capacity in the region.

The report states younger firms “far outshone” more established ones in terms of job creation.

“The key is identifying and supporting those startups, which have the most potential through start up programmes, subsidies or policy.”

Patricia Ferreira from getAbstract, a company which provides training to those looking to start their own business, told the World Bank that “everyone has identified that innovation is definitely the way to move forward. Now, how to take this concept of innovation, break it down into microlearning moments so they can move this innovation train forward”.

It pointed to a young Barbadian entrepreneur Justin Quinlan, who is the chief executive officer of a successful start-up, “but that wasn’t always the case”.

Encouraged to focus on an existing career path like law or medicine, the World Bank said he “frequently came up against obstacles to his entrepreneurial dream”.

Quinlan said he remembered pitching to one of the bigger lending firms in Barbados, which was geared to finding innovation for youth.

“So I walk into this boardroom, and everyone there is about 50 bordering on 60 plus. When people don’t understand ideas or comprehend ideas, they are afraid.

“Investment is all about leveraging risk, so why would you try and invest in something that you don’t know or understand,” he added.

Source: – Caribbean Online Magazine (Retrieved 03/25/2014) –

DMSThe Go Lean roadmap asserts that entrepreneurship needs stimuli to be successful. That in addition to incubators, the book further calls for help to entrepreneurs with venture capital funds, angel investors, small business loans, Self-Governing Entities, cloud computing, and coaching.

Though “necessity is the mother of invention”, the Go Lean roadmap does not limit its job creation functionality to the realm of the small business. There are stimuli and growth strategies for large multi-national corporations and even government civil services. But perhaps the greatest impetus for growth will be in the fostering of intellectual property, as the book describes Internet Communications Technologies (ICT) as the great equalizer between big economy states (US, Japan, Germany, etc.) and small states, like in the Caribbean – See 10 Ways to Promote Intellectual Property (Page 29).

Considering the mathematics for creating 2.2 million new jobs, there needs to be the focus on additions and subtractions. Human flight or brain drains have depleted a lot of the Caribbean workforce in the past. So the effort to grow the number of new jobs must keep an eye on expatriation rates among the Caribbean youth. In this vein, education options would prioritize local institutions and online “e-Learning” as opposed to the previous model of studying abroad – where far too often the students never returned. This directive is embedded in the opening Declaration of Interdependence at the start of the book (Page 13) as:

xxi. Whereas the preparation of our labor force can foster opportunities and dictate economic progress for current and future generations, the Federation must ensure that educational and job training opportunities are fully optimized for all residents of all member-states, with no partiality towards any gender or ethnic group. The Federation must recognize and facilitate excellence in many different fields of endeavor, including sciences, languages, arts, music and sports. This responsibility should be executed without incurring the risks of further human flight, as has been the past history.

All in all, the roadmap Go Lean … Caribbean proposes rebooting the entire economic eco-system of the region. This is the only way to usher in the change the Caribbean desperately needs. The book posits that the problems of the Caribbean homeland are too big for any one state to solve, but rather a regional solution, the Caribbean Union Trade Federation, is the most viable option to fulfill the hope for a vibrant future for the 30 member-states and 42 million people of the region.

Download the Book- Go Lean Caribbean Now!!!

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