Barbados was described as “punching above its weight” by former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan - this is certainly an accolade of which its citizens can be proud. Barbados’ management of the COVID-19 virus reminded us that this comment is no idle acclaim. This time around, Barbados came in for praise globally for outstanding leadership during the ongoing pandemic by Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In June 2020, Barbados was included among the top COVID-19 recovery countries worldwide, according to the company Iunera, an information analyst and developer of ‘big data’ science applications. The country’s proactiveness in establishing safety protocols has assisted greatly in identifying and keeping cases to a minimum. Barbados’ ongoing success also speaks volumes of the maturity and disciplined nature of residents and to date, the island remains void of community spread.
An Award Winning ‘Safe Harbour’
It is no secret that Barbados kept its borders open and served as a home port and testing site for cruise ships that were left to fend for themselves during the crest of the first wave. It is also the same country that welcomed, provided ‘safe harbour’ and helped with the seamless repatriation of the many stranded passengers and crew, as other ports around the world buttoned down. These bold decisions redounded to more than necessary acts of kindness and contributed to the country earning the coveted Seatrade’s Cruise Destination of the Year 2020 award. In addition, our actions attest to the ethos of Barbadians, as well as the country’s sound and visionary leadership.
Barbados has been distinguishing itself for several decades now. Long before COVID-19, the island was known as an ideal choice for visitors and investors alike. More and more it is becoming known as a preferred choice for global businesses - a course that Barbados is charting for itself.
Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals
It is no wonder then, that the country continues to make good progress in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including reducing youth unemployment, addressing the challenge of non-communicable diseases among its citizens and promoting the use of clean energy. The SDGs are shared by countries globally and are designed to “leave no one behind.” This global mantra is one that Barbados continues to work towards as the country seeks to enhance the well-being of Barbados and those who call Barbados ‘home’.
Healthcare : Among the Best in the Caribbean
Barbados will, as it focuses on the attraction of additional investment to its shores, be continuously seeking to improve its social eco-system. This of course is integral to its strategy of positioning itself as ‘best in class’. For example, it is well established that the country’s healthcare system is among the best in the Caribbean. At the onset of the pandemic, the government swiftly implemented measures designed to mitigate the risk of its acute care hospital being severely impacted by COVID-19 cases To achieve this, several temporary alternative facilities were provided for the testing, isolating and treating patients, as necessary. This initiative, along with the integration of well-trained Cuban and Ghanaian nurses has helped to improve the delivery of healthcare services, generally.
A Talented Workforce
Barbados’ educational system is renowned globally and has produced a talented workforce. With a literacy rate of 99.7% that ranks among the highest in the world, Barbados has seen the value of investing in the education of its citizens. This investment, made through the years, has positioned the island to take hold of several opportunities. More recently, Barbados was able to pivot and reset the delivery of education, mainly through online platforms, at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
The ‘Barbados experience’, has shown the world how to effectively manage the return to the school environment with a degree of normalcy, using hybrid, blended learning, that results in positive outcomes for students, teachers and parents.
An Advanced Telecommunications Infrastructure
This relatively smooth transition was made much easier, in part, due to Barbados’ modern telecommunication infrastructure, which features a robust fibre optic system and up-to-date 4G digital technology. Local telecommunication companies collaborated with educational institutions to enhance access to the internet for students and teachers, ensuring consistent connectivity, along with providing zero rated educational websites to assist the primary to tertiary levels. Corporate Barbados and other donors assisted with the provision of devices as needed.
Accelerating our Drive Towards Digitisation
In addition to the thrust in the educational space, and in a conscious effort to enhance the ease of doing business, the jurisdiction has accelerated its drive towards digitisation with the firm objective of increasing digital access and payments across the spectra of services. Barbados has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Estonia, one of the European Union’s leaders in digitisation, to assist as it seeks to leapfrog advancement in certain processes. As a means of improving trade facilitation and competitiveness, plans are in train to activate an Electronic Single Window, which constitutes a vital part of the country’s vision to become a world-class logistics hub.
Ambitious Renewable Energy Goals
Barbados is mindful of the need to nurture a green environment and is on track to achieving the goal of 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2030. With an abundance of wind and solar power potential, plans are on stream for a proposed 25-megawatt waste-to-energy plant using 20 percent local organic waste and 80 percent imported. Already, Barbados is the first country in the Caribbean to integrate 33 electric buses into its national bus service fleet, with more vehicles expected to arrive on island in due course. This innovative integration contributes not only to the reduction of carbon emissions and considerable savings in fuel costs but will also assist in improving the efficiency of public transport within the island.
A Welcoming Climate
Then enters the Barbados Welcome Stamp, a 12-month visa that allows visitors to live and work for up to a year on the island. This programme has proven to be very popular with the international business community, particularly with digital nomads. The popularity of this programme signals to persons living abroad that Barbados is more than a tourist destination - it is also a jurisdiction in which to live and work. It is expected that more Welcome Stamp recipients will invest in real estate and others will transition to establish businesses of substance in Barbados, further contributing to the country’s development.
While encouraging investors to start or expand operations, Invest Barbados has also helped several locally based foreignowned entities to safely navigate the pandemic and to continue operations, oft times just as safely and effectively from Barbados as in competing locations. From Financial services to ICT entities, from niche manufacturers to global education providers, the transition during the pandemic showcased how Barbados helps businesses to enhance their global competitiveness.
On the global stage, Barbados continues to make an indelible mark. The announcement that Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley, would serve as Chair of the Joint World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund Committee, presents an opportunity to strategically influence the engagement of these organisations by small island developing states, particularly during this moment of global recovery.
Barbados continues to position itself as best-in-class. We are poised to become a global force of the 21st Century – a country brand that symbolises excellence, productivity, imagination and innovation. The Barbados brand is becoming a premier global brand – a brand that defines all Barbadians, sets us apart and keeps us humble, yet proud to say, “this is who we are!”
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