The Caribbean region as a whole is not a major exporter of commodities, or enough to create wealth in the future to sustain its SIS. Therefore, with the increasing ‘new economy’ reality, the only practical and realistic way to achieve long-term sustainable growth is through participation in the rising global digital economy.
This is where the real wealth and sustained prosperity is residing! In the post-covid-19 transformation era, global markets will become increasingly competitive for talent and skill. This tech-skilled group of people can operate virtually from anywhere in the world. Green energy transitioning of jobs in component production, engineering, and general tech, for example, is in play now…contributing to changing the future-of-work forever.
Governments, both in developed nations and poor nations, need to get involved because the market shift to fossil-fuels won’t necessarily happen efficiently on its own. Economic change often starts with state-sponsored economic policy initiatives, research and development, and the deployment of technologies towards real actions.
If we look at the electric vehicle (EV) industry for a brief moment, the average EV has a range of 300 miles or 482 km, with many Tesla models specifically going way over 700km. To put it into perspective, Grenada is 12 miles (18km) wide and 21 miles (34km) long and covers a land area of 120 sq. miles (440 sq. km). Safe to say that any EV would have range for days in Grenada. Therefore, the question becomes: why isn’t an EV-transportation sector being promoted and developed aggressively in SIS?
It would seem logical that if a government were to work to attract and facilitate investment in charging stations throughout the country, for example. Then set a strict development policy that says 90% of new personal vehicles being imported into the country must be EV, you would immediately see how fast a renewable energy industry develops. All the existing fossil-fuel car dealerships on the island would shift to their brands EV product offerings. Such moves would create robust new areas of job growth and R&D with increased income growth happening in the sector overall.
Vehicle owners would then be motivated to install solar on their homes, for energy independence and EV charging flexibility. Governments could then work with credible global institutions (with climate change mitigation investment mandates) to arrange sophisticated long-term financing plans for property owners on a mass scale, to install systems on the roofs of residences and businesses. All this is possible through progressive and economically inclusive led government policy making. Almost overnight you would see a transformation of the island’s economy and a serious reduction in CO2 emissions. In short, effective government policy can greatly impact long-term sustainable economic growth and transform societies, impacting people’s lives positively.
Software engineering and development is another industry where proximity to work no longer applies. Physical location is not important anymore, people and companies can operate virtually from anywhere in the world. I don’t think it would be too difficult to lure young millennials to live and work amongst Grenada’s sunshine and beaches. Young professionals today are increasingly interested in work and lifestyle balance. Why can’t the government create a global recruitment campaign to promote Grenada as an optimal work-lifestyle destination for tech companies and professionals alike? Those big tech salaries would surely find its way into every aspect of the local economy, and as we know a rising tide lifts all boats.
Again, achieving this is highly possible, it just comes down to creative thinking and vision, proper application of policy, leadership, and a bit of courage.
Technology advancement also requires constant research, Caribbean islands could also present themselves as research centres for tech-based companies. Drawing brainpower to our shores will boost our own intellectual property growth. St. Georges University (SGU,) for example, does not have an Industrial Engineering and Data Science technology program, which is the most relevant and demanded post-graduate program today. Also remember, SGU is a for-profit institution whose private equity owners Atlas Partners out of Toronto, Canada, continue to pump out healthy profits since purchasing the university in August 2014. SGU needs to give back and align itself more to the relevant development priorities of Grenada, through programs that will provide real access and opportunity for regional students. Creating an environment where tomorrow’s leaders can go on to work in the region, developing a strong regional supply of educated and high-tech skilled workers; fostering an entrepreneurial-minded middle-class.
SGU mainly producing foreign doctors for the primary benefit of everywhere else in the world other than Grenada, is not conducive to the bold and sustainable growth agenda Grenada needs right now. We need to flip the script and demand a better more mutually beneficial deal for Grenada with business organizations like SGU. Although it is claimed that SGU contributes around 30%+ to Grenada’s GDP, it is not the type of GDP contribution that can grow the middle-class effectively into the new economy. In fact, keeping things as-is will become a drag on growth into the digital era and this remains inherently in the colonial legacy. In short, we need a better more progressive, and inclusive arrangement, with clarity towards bold and measurable benefits for the Grenadian people.
A fundamental conscious mindset shift needs to take place in Grenada if it wants to progress and not be left behind. A strong, tech-savvy, and progressive middle-class is all-important to growing the economy into the transformative 21st-century.
So, instead of running behind the Chinese like hungry stray dogs and swallowing up insurmountable debt that cannot realistically be paid back, (which will also inhibit our ability to engage in investment activity with other entities or investors on a global basis), the government needs instead, to stop borrowing money from China towards building backward projects like Levera. Where all of the economic data points are telling us that this project cannot be economically viable and that it’s nothing more than a Chinese debt-trap. Levera’s lack of efficacy and the clever entrapment financing structure by the Chinese set the project up to fail. Locking Grenada into China’s calculation of future geopolitical opportunity to seize public assets. For example, the port in St. George’s for one, would be a prize target, as has been done similarly before in other countries in Africa and right here in the Caribbean.
Grenada, therefore, needs a diversified economy for future sustainable growth, tourism alone is not the answer, in fact, tourism is an inherently subservient low performing economic sector, primarily service-oriented with very low paying jobs. The economic facts say that you simply cannot build a strong middle-class led economy through tourism, particularly now in a post-covid-19 digital world. Everything has changed, there is no going back to ‘normal’ it’s the new normal that now prevails.
We must look at development models like Singapore to guide our future economic aspirations logically and intelligently, and not continue to fall prey to rethreaded and stale ideas politicians and their cronies continue to put forth. A diversified technology-led economy makes for a more resilient economy, one that can produce high-paying skilled jobs and lure big investment dollars in stride. This is what the history of economics teaches us…that a strong middle-class is the most proven or optimal path to sustained prosperity, for any nation-state.
Therefore, we need to get organized and become proactive, innovative, and aggressive in our approach to engaging legitimate global investors and capital markets development in the region. We must negotiate proper, transparent, and mutually beneficial growth agendas. However, we must also first get our house in order, serious investors won’t invest in climates where they believe there is acute corruption. Particularly with China hovering, there is the added risk of cybersecurity, so, in more ways than one, China could very well severely limit our future development and prosperity. This is a fundamental political and economic problem that must be solved; burying our heads in the warm grand anse beach sand won’t make it go away!
Addressing these problems transparently with concrete policies and measurable actions to follow, will demonstrate and send a clear message to global investors, that Grenada is serious and fully understands the paramount importance of creating an opportunistic, strong and transparent investment environment.
We recognize that this shift will not be without execution risk; however, living in fear and doing nothing is not an existence that anyone really wishes to strive for. Similar to individual entrepreneur experience, nations must also take well-considered and calculated risks in order to benefit in the long-term. No one owes us anything nor will anyone give us anything, we must create opportunities ourselves and execute accordingly. We are smart, competent, proud, and resilient people. We’ve taken 25 years of this current administration, and all it has given us is a steady downward trajectory on the UN poverty meter, quickly approaching Haiti’s situation. Complacency and acceptance of the status quo will destroy our society, and the acceptance of acute corruption and incompetence is intrinsically harmful to socioeconomic growth and to our social well-being.
Grenadians have suffered real trauma under the current leadership, and it becomes inherently unhealthy for a society to continually be living under pressure and stress. Our mental health situation is a direct function of our circumstances and the prevailing environment—we really need to heal and get better as people, before we can become mentally ready to take on the challenging road ahead.