COLUMN: Barbados: Singapore of the Caribbean, 30 Years Later

By Basil Springer

“Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” – Deuteronomy 4:9 I have recently been reflecting on the passage of time and the evolution of concepts that have woven their way into the fabric of economic development in the Caribbean.


It was in July 1993, after a visit to Singapore, when I first put pen to paper in a letter to the editor of the Barbados Advocate, musing about the potential of Barbados becoming the “Singapore of the Caribbean”.


Little did I know then that this notion would germinate into an intricate framework of ideas, guiding the trajectory of small island economies for decades to come.


The cornerstone of my vision for economic growth has been the Economic Gearing System – a skeletal structure that has proved essential in nurturing and propelling economies forward.


This system, like the gears of a well-oiled machine, fosters connectivity among business sectors, bolsters the growth of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and creates jobs that sustain livelihoods.



Through these interconnected gears, the engine of our economy hums with vitality and progress. Central to this evolution are the trailblazers we call entrepreneurs.


They conjure up ideas with the DNA of an elephant, which start small but have intelligence in their seeds of grand visions that are not only colossal but are, in fact, powerful enough to shape our economic landscape.


If these entrepreneurs embrace the spirit of shepherding (life coaching and business mentoring) the benefits will be to (1) avoid pitfalls as they traverse the rugged terrain of challenges; (2) understand the perfect mix of profitability, savings and equity (rather than loans); and (3) share the successes of their ventures to create a more inclusive prosperity. What a transformation this will be.


As I reflect on the transformation of Singapore, my mind inevitably turns to their triumphant journey from a modest fishing village in 1959 to a First World powerhouse by the turn of the century.


The success of Singapore is encapsulated in the principles of Connectivity, Openness, Reliability and Enterprise (C.O.R.E.).


These principles, woven into its very core, have propelled Singapore beyond its humble origins, inspiring Caribbean nations like Barbados to follow in its footsteps.


In the ever-changing landscape of economic discourse, Barbadian businessman Selwyn Cambridge’s insights have cast a spotlight on the nuanced difference between small business owners and entrepreneurs.


His poignant comparison, shared in the Barbados Today online newspaper, has shed light on the distinctive paths they tread.


It is through such discerning observations that we can chart a course for growth that acknowledges both paths, carving a space for each to flourish.


An undeniable truth emerges – the way forward for small island developing states lies in the symbiotic relationship between the public and private sectors.


Collaboration, often in the form of public-private partnerships, unveils a path strewn with opportunities for success.


Through shared resources, expertise and vision, we can navigate the intricate terrain of economic growth, building a foundation that supports both entrepreneurs and small businesses alike.


As I pen this column, 30 years after that initial letter to the editor, I am filled with optimism.


The journey has been one of learning, adapting and embracing the ever-changing dynamics of our world.


The seed of an idea planted all those years ago has blossomed into a forest of possibilities not yet realized.


The economic landscape of the Caribbean and, indeed, other small island developing states, while distinctive and diverse, holds the potential to emulate the success story of Singapore – not as a mere copy, but as a unique Caribbean tale of growth, enterprise and prosperity.


There are a plethora of entrepreneurs in our countries but without shepherding they fail at an alarmingly high rate.


My hypothesis is that if only our governments would understand and play that critical role of creating an enabling environment, what a wonderful transformation we would witness.

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    • Well everywhere has it’s problems but they have done well over the past 30 years. I lived there until recently and yes, crime is high, inflation is high, corruption is there BUT its all over.

      Good job BGI

      • And they are right where they need to be. In the arms of the IMF. They are doing so well that they have no other choice. And guess what? Mia just wrote of the debt the government had to the NIS. $1.3 billion Barbados dollars. Always try to make people believe Barbados is doing so well. Just check their GDP growth years over the past ten years and you will see how much negative growth they had, until they went into an IMF program. Our little Island of Antigua and Barbuda has a much higher growth rate than Barbados every year. And we did that without having to go into an IMF program. Thanks to our visionary leader and Economic Guru Dr. The Honorable Gaston Alphonso Browne.

        • @From The Sideline.
          “Just check their GDP growth years over the past ten years and you will see how much negative growth they had, until they went into an IMF program”.

          Did you really mean that? You are singing the IMF’s praises: negative growth until they went into an IMF program? Hmm. The pensioners and others who have been waiting for arrears of pay for years are highly pleased to see the increasing growth over the years but not too happy they are still stretching their hands out for what is owed them. What’s the visionary leader doing about it? Would the loan from Saudi Arabia mentioned in the last budget help? You have the ear of our Marvelous Economic Guru. Have a quiet word with him; let him know those poor hand-to-mouth people would like a little creative enrichment.

  1. Barbados
    GDP growth
    2.5% (2016)
    0.5% (2017)
    −0.6% (2018)
    −0.1% (2019)
    -7.6% (2020)
    And I will find more data for you if you cannot do it yourself.

    • Antigua’s GDP growth

      6.88% (2018)
      4.86% (2019)
      -20.19 % (2020)

      @ From The Sideline, if you are going to do GDP growth charts, do like for like comparisons, so that Antiguans know that in 2020 the country was showing a GDP deficit of -20.19%.

      YES, I’LL REPEAT THAT FIGURE -20.19%!!!

      Stop the lies and falsehoods, all you are trying to do is hoodwink Antiguans. You should have known that I would followed up your nonsense.

      As you put it: “I will find more data for you if you cannot do it yourself”. Let Brixtonian know boss 👍🏾

      Caught you out once again Sideline … this is getting to easy for me.

      • Brixtonian, you are not any economist and your 2020 figure does not footnote that it reflects the period of the pandemic. The economy was affected world wide. The economy of Antigua and Barbuda rebounded in 2021 and 2022 so show those numbers as well. Be fair in your analysis and be proud that the economy is doing well. You may not like the party on power, but its our country regardless. National pride for your country over party. 👏🏾

        • … and you’re no Professor @ Adjunct. I didn’t make up those figures, I’m just reminding the ABLP supporters that you take ALL figures and data as a WHOLE and stop trying to fool people.

          Proof of the pudding is that 40-odd years of Birdism and Browneism has continously lulled Antiguans into false hopes.

          We need a change of government.

          You know it, I know it, and the majority of the country knows it, or we’ll have another 40 years of the same old, same old.

          Why don’t you also show pride and love of your country by demanding better governance?

          See what I just did there @ Adjunct? 🤔

          BTW, let’s see if the Prime Minister puts this extra revenue to good use – I think we both know the answer, looking at his past history!

          • Brix, how come you have nothing to say about Mia writing off the Debt her government have with the NIS. Like our Social Security. The write off was $1.3 Billion Barbados Dollars.
            You think you would allow Gaston Browne to write off the $500 Million the government owes to Social Security?
            Please let me hear your views. Don’t be a hypocrite and a coward to ignore it. Because the Website doesn’t seem to want to carry this story. It makes Mia look bad.

            Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley says a write-off of debt to the National Insurance Service (NIS) was among urgent initiatives taken by Government to stabilise the economy, save the dollar from devaluation and avoid imposing financial burden on Barbadians.

      • Brix Everyone knows about the dip of 2020. That is the Covid year. And guess what, we have make up for that long time. According to World Bank figures,
        2020 was -17.5%
        2021 was +6.6%
        2022 was +8.5%
        and you know we are estimated to grow this year in double digits.
        So, wheel and come again Brix.
        Antigua and Barbuda was declared the fasted growing economy in the Caribbean safe from Guayana last year. Those are facts you cannot refute.

        These are the growth rates under Harold Lovell as Minister of Finance.
        Antigua and Barbuda
        2008 -0.014%
        2009 -11.963%
        2010 -7.841%
        2011 -1.959%
        2012 3.373%
        2013 -0.601%

        What a failure for a finance minister. Four consecutive negative growth rates.
        Brix, you know better not to challenge me on economic and finance. You out of your depth

  2. All of this is just pure rhetoric. The haters of Antigua and Barbuda will see it differently out of hate and pure badmindeness.

  3. Sorry, I lived in Barbados for 2 years ( 1993 to 95). It was not Singapore then and it is certainly not Singapore now.
    In fact Bim media does a great job to let you believe great things about Barbados, but the reality is really different.

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