Better but not good enough
This country’s improved performance on two different scales of global rankings is a welcome dose of good news. While not unduly remarkable in themselves, the upward movement by three places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2014 ranking and seven places in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2013 indicate that we are heading in the right direction.
In rating performance for Ease of Business, the World Bank recognises our efforts to simplify business registration procedures. In terms of gender equality ranking, the improvement is said to be due to a decline in the performance of other countries over the 2012-13 period. Broken down, the elements involved in quantifying the gender gap range from a moderate ranking of 38 for political empowerment to a worrying ranking of 130 for health and survival. This latter figure would seem to follow from this country’s infant and maternal mortality rate which has deteriorated in recent years. The rank of 51 in educational attainment is not a bad showing but given our high investment in free education, it should be cause for review and concern.
We share the view of president of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association, Nicholas Lok Jack, that to be ranked at 66 on a list of 189 countries for ease of doing business, is still way down, even if heading in the right direction. With our resources there should be nothing stopping us from breaking into the top ten. Improving the business registration process is a good start but it is a long way from what is required for building a global reputation as a business-friendly location for investment.
The efforts of some fellow Caribbean countries have also been acknowledged by the World Bank, including the Bahamas for reducing the cost of property transfers and improving the insolvency process, and Jamaica for its new legislation for private credit bureaus. Barbados’ ranking of 91 should be a source of worry given its long-standing reputation as a destination for foreign investment, especially in the tourism and services sector.
The Caribbean’s reputation as a place for doing business is far from ideal given unduly bothersome bureaucracy, limited transparency and the plethora of regulatory and procedural regimes across the region.
The patchy performance from Caribbean countries on both lists underscores the great need for collaboration and harmonisation at a regional level. It would be useful, therefore, if after analysing their individual performances, Caricom countries could develop a strategic and collaborative approach for improving performance at both the national and regional levels.
We have the option of competing with each other for limited opportunity, or for competing together against the rest of the world as a destination of higher performance on every count.
To achieve this, we will have to draw a straight line between where we are and where we would like to be and stick to the path by persuading all groups of their common interest in doing so. That is the job of leadership with vision.