Barbados in 2030 – Scenarios 3 & 4

These “Barbados in 2030″ scenarios were created 4 years ago in 2019 for a Caribbean regional conglomerate, who gave me permission to re-publish them. In this post, BajanThings are re-publishing the second two of the four scenarios.

The first two potential outlooks for Barbados in 2030 were based on the premise that Bajan society would generally “pull together”, as it has for centuries.

But suppose it doesn’t (some say we are already seeing cracks caused by hardships, drugs and other factors)? In that case, entirely different futures might well emerge, inevitably darker than the first two.

In this post BajanThings are re-publishing the final two of the four scenarios which take a much more extreme / darker view, which is needed to provide balance when looking at a range of scenarios for strategic planning purposes:

No future is ever all good or all bad – so is life. And in the midst of Jamaica’s tough times in the mid-60’s and 70’s, there was a cultural renaissance, with a vibrant theatre scene, ska and reggae. The human spirit is rarely ever extinguished.

To recap: a scenario is basically a story that describes what the future might look like. We can have several, which describe different outcomes.

In fact, did you know that back in 1991, a set of scenarios called the “Mont Fleur” Scenarios in South Africa were so powerful that they convinced F.W. De Klerk to end apartheid rule and release Nelson Mandela? They helped change history.

Here’s another example: in 2003, we created scenarios for the media on “Barbados in 2015” and they helped convince CBC to launch MCTV (Multi-Choice TV which is a Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service subscription television provider) and close the STV service. Even Harold Hoyte thought they were great! And our 2003 scenarios even projected that Mia Mottley would become Prime Minister (we were just two years earlier than real life).

The goal of creating scenarios is to gain wise and thoughtful insights into potential challenges and opportunities that may arise in the future. We spoke with many wise people locally to get their thoughts, but any conclusions we drew are our own.

During these interviews, we found that certain themes and questions came up repeatedly, such as:

  • Will the relationships between social groups in Barbados become more divided or stay united? Barbados has historically had great social cohesion, but will it last?
  • How will the economy of Barbados grow, and what will drive that growth?
  • Can environmental concerns be effectively addressed?
  • Will the political leadership focus on local and narrow issues or work for the betterment of the region?
  • How can advanced communications and other technologies be used to effectively shape the future?

So, in a nutshell, scenarios can help us better understand possible futures and help us make more informed decisions. In Management Consultancy speak this is scenario planning. These four scenarios were part of a bigger planning exercise and was one way to look at future uncertainty by identifying assumptions about the future and determining how the organisation might respond.

Barbados in 2030: “PARADISE LOST” one possible scenario

Individual focus is prioritised, community life diminished; criminals & corrupt officials control much commerce, businesses fail.

Chinese and CIA try to gain influence & leverage. Drugs rampant/’Dons’ rule/turf wars; fortified enclaves appear. Police and BDF become virtual mini-armies. Little Forex; BBD devalued, Inflation high, barter & sharing grow.

Description. Barbados has been ravaged by years of merciless global trading and financial forces, crushing its economic growth and leaving its people to fend for themselves. The population has shrunk by a staggering 20%, as the quality of living continues to plummet. A pervasive sense of cynicism and selfishness now permeates every layer of society, eroding the once cherished cohesion of Bajan society. The government finds itself powerless to take any meaningful action, with high interest rates and difficult borrowing terms rendering their options severely limited. The Barbados dollar is unstable and devalued, causing a thriving black market for Bitcoin and hard currencies.

Years of unfavourable global trading and financial forces have left this once-thriving nation struggling to make ends meet. As the quality of living falls, widespread patterns of cynicism and selfishness have emerged among all classes. Everyone is focused on their own survival, and the historic cohesion of local society has all but disappeared.

But the challenges facing the people of Barbados don’t stop there. The government is forced to focus on maintaining a basic infrastructure of essential security needs while abandoning its past extensive social services. The grinding pressures and privations have taken a toll on the ruling party, which has split into factions with varying philosophies. A new party is poised to win the next elections, and the country’s reduced economic situation has opened up large opportunities for powerful moneyed interests, often at the expense of average consumers and the fragile environment.

The middle class, once a reliable source of stability, has been hit hardest by the country’s reduced economic situation. The NIS and Social Security programs, once safety nets for citizens, are now under grave threat. Pensions have evaporated, leaving an aging population with no safety net for public health services. As younger, better-educated citizens flee the country in search of better prospects, those left behind are forced into a mentality of “committed survivalists.” Neighbourhood watches have evolved into self-defence squads, armed and aggressive, as turf wars dominate the landscape.

Meanwhile, a significant portion of households are very rich, protected and “connected” consumers who control large swathes of commerce and infrastructure. But they are resented by the less-affluent sectors of society, who also blame them for worsening the country’s ills. As the younger, better-educated citizens have departed the country for better prospects elsewhere, an aging left-behind population causes welfare costs to spiral, though with a reduced safety net of public health services to sustain them. Immigration floodgates have led to fractures along the lines of race and religion.

The Chinese, seeking to expand their influence in the Caribbean, are believed to be funding gangs and warlords, known as “Dons,” who could provide or influence an alternative government. The CIA is funding rivals to counter this movement, leading to furious turf wars. The government has strengthened the BDF and elite armed police to counter gang warfare, but their increasing power is viewed uneasily. The education system is stretched, unable to re-train people for new jobs in a shrinking economy, causing teachers to abandon the system and offer home schooling.

As if that weren’t enough, the education system is stretched to the breaking point, unable to retrain people for new jobs in a shrinking economy. Teachers are abandoning the system, with some offering home schooling. And after the demise of sugar, the natural environment has suffered from a lack of investment, while much of the population survives on a less-than-nutritious diet.

Tourism, once a mainstay of the economy, has also taken a hit, with Barbados losing its image as a safe destination. The new trend is all-inclusive enclaves, with private beaches protected by armed guards, for mainly Chinese and Indian tourists. But most of these revenues still manage to stay abroad, even as the properties impact the local environment. The economy is in shambles, with limited options for government borrowing except at high interest rates and on difficult terms.

But despite all of these challenges, the human spirit in Barbados remains strong. The arts bloom in small corners of the country, and nascent instances of entrepreneurship persist. Community theatre groups flourish, both to lament their situation and to dream of a better future. Innovative businesses spring up to barter goods and share or rent appliances, goods, and even clothes.

Despite the daily hardships, small pockets of creativity bloom throughout the country. Community theatre groups flourish, lamenting their situation while dreaming of a better future. Innovative businesses spring up to barter goods and share or rent appliances, goods, and even clothes. In the words of one observer, Barbados “has never been so broke and so creative at the same time.”

Barbados in 2030: “BREKKIN’ FUH YOUSELF” one possible scenario

Gov’t controls key sectors of society/economy; personal inequity widespread; churches and unions mostly cooperate but “have-not” protests erupt.

Technology helps with social control (surveillance, etc.). Known criminals “chipped” for monitoring. Few rich, many poor; environment degrades as profiteers benefit. Social partnership flounders. Forex strictly controlled, black market flourishes.

Description. Barbados, by 2030, has become a society where the mantra “me-first!” is now a way of life. The government has conceded that it cannot provide for all, and so pragmatism and selfishness reign supreme. Charities struggle to maintain their social programs as people care less and can’t afford to give more. The once strong sense of community has given way to individualism.

The population has dwindled as many of the best minds have emigrated to greener pastures abroad. Unemployment is high and job losses continue, partly due to the spread of automated intelligence (A.I.) systems, which have taken over many jobs to cut costs, even at management levels.

The government has outsourced more services to private suppliers, leading to intense lobbying by businesses for these service contracts. Many overseas-based companies win the contracts based on their lower costs, exacerbating the flight of foreign exchange. Rumors abound that private kickbacks are rampant, and there is a busy Forex black market, replacing the genteel “grey market” of old.

Within local society, the divide between rich and poor has widened, and profiteering is believed to be widespread, causing social cooperation to suffer. Depression among society emerges, and products and services emerge to address the widespread depression of the population.

Security within society is expensive and available only to those who can afford it. A.I. is used for 24-hour surveillance, and there are aggressive responses to any security threat. Some people say that many B.D.F. NCO’s moonlight with their squads as de facto security guards.

To control crime, society has agreed that known criminals must accept being monitored constantly by having a micro-chip inserted under their skin. This is cheaper than keeping them incarcerated, although the persons so marked suffer social prejudice. Meanwhile, streets are widely surveilled with remote cameras and sensors.

B2B business models have grown as surviving companies opt to purchase supplies and equipment online. However, this comes with a wrench for many suppliers, who discover they cannot simply “bolt on” a B2B front to their existing operating process; the entire company must be re-focused, which in turn means significant job losses. The social impact and upheaval are significant.

Routine doctor consultations are increasingly done remotely via video links plus data transfer, alleviating stress on local polyclinics. And so-called “Webinar Colleges” are a new business, with teachers and professors holding classes online for students, thereby cutting out classroom and infrastructure costs. Their degrees are considered to be “good enough” for local employment, though not always for overseas acceptance.

Barbados’ natural environment suffers as the lack of care and community support has restricted the budget. Infrastructure is ignored, and there is a serious danger of structural failures. However, the official attitude is “we have other priorities, and we’ll face that if and when it happens.”

The country’s tourism industry is under duress to maintain employment levels. In need of a new angle, it has pioneered niches such as “tiny rooms” and “experience tours.” These are less expensive to construct, rent, and maintain. However, some are sub-standard and receive scathing reviews, threatening the movement. Automation has also taken over many clerical and booking tasks, such as automated face-recognition check-ins.

Persons who have not prospered feel left out of the country’s development and vote and stage protests accordingly. Union leaders are mostly convinced (or coerced) to support public policy, but members often break ranks. Meanwhile, churches preach peace and compliance in return for official support to their dwindling congregations.

In the face of constant criticism, the government publishes regular scorecards on its performance in key areas, which are often believed to be rigged to show flattering results.

We’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on these four 2030 Barbados future scenarios. If you disagree with any of the future scenarios – please tell us which element you would change? Please leave a comment below or reach out to BajanThings who will forward your message to Greg Hoyos.

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Response to “Barbados in 2030 – Scenarios 3 & 4”

  1. Linda Standard-Douglas

    Let’s hope such dire future scenarios don’t come to pass; however, “Forewarned is forearmed.”

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