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Monday 27 January 2020
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Letters to the Editor

The problem of diversification

THE EDITOR: The need to diversify the economy here and in the rest of the West Indies is a historical necessity arising from our very inception as colonial economies set up by foreigners and specialised in production for exports. Diversification is really about setting up a new economy and society so that free and independent people can live meaningful lives. Diversification therefore is not simply an economic issue to be solved by identifying some economic sectors to be targeted for support and promotion.

Plans and programmes aimed at diversifying the economy since independence have been many but they have borne little fruit so far. Some of our economists today still advocate the “right incentive framework” for the promotion of diversification and export production. This approach is doomed to fail and has failed miserably so far. This economistic-type solution flows from a misinterpretation of the problem.

Developing local output for export in a sustainable way requires a whole new outlook — on the part of entrepreneurs who can see such opportunity, consumers who are willing to purchase such output and a range of other stakeholders who are willing to support such types of activities. In other words a society with a kind of cultural confidence.

And this is not an economic issue solely, not a short-term process, not amenable to quick fixes and to “stop-and-go” policies. It is multidimensional in nature and involves a range of interconnected policies in education, governance, economics, science and research etc.

One of the tragedies of our recent approaches is an overemphasis on science and technology. This emphasis has led to the humanities and social sciences being marginalised.

If we are to develop cultural confidence and a commitment to our space, as well as a morality steeped in belonging — not trapped in transience and flight, leading to corruption as the pursuit of self-interest — then the humanities and the arts must be seen as vital for the formation of citizenship.

Belonging and relating must inform producing and working. So the arts and the humanities have an irreplaceable and necessary instrumental role in building the human infrastructure of values and attitudes that support and nurture the self-belief and creativity required for continuous diversification.

SAMUEL LOCHAN via e-mail

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