Barbados in 2030 – Scenarios 1 & 2

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 first two of the four scenarios which were based on the premise that Bajan society would generally “pull together”, as it has for centuries:

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 were 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 make more informed decisions.

Barbados in 2030: “WALKING THE TIGHTROPE” one possible scenario

Under a contracting economy and resulting smaller population base, society adapts as historic Barbadian community bonds remain resilient.

Self-realisation, self-fulfilment within community. Knowledge-based economy emerges; mini-Silicon ‘vale’. Government mostly achieves a balance of income and demands on it. Social harmony holds, evolves; Barbados as a role-model. New tourism presents the ‘perfect little country’.

Description. Despite the government’s 10-year Barbados Economic Recovery & Transformation (BERT) programme, Barbados is still facing significant economic challenges due to the dominance of populism and restrictive trading blocs in the world order. As a result, society has had to adapt to the contracting economy and resulting smaller population base. However, historic community bonds in Barbados have remained resilient throughout these difficult times.

Collective social goals now take precedence over personal wealth and consumption. The Barbadian community self-identifies as optimistic and has gravitated towards more modest lifestyles. People wear their clothes for longer, pursue better health habits, and try to re-create the benefits of the “good old simple days”. Traditional and social media play an important role in this environment, especially the remnant print media, which cater to the nostalgia trend.

The government’s options are limited due to the falling tax base, which means hard choices must be made. It cannot provide the extent of support its people need and must make constant decisions on which to fund and which to leave to private enterprise. The government exhorts the populace to stick together, work together, and cherish the things that once made Barbados great. Traditional and social media are recruited strongly in this effort and respond enthusiastically.

To win the frugal consumers, businesses have switched their appeal to longevity, emphasizing good quality, value, re-use, and ease of maintenance. Another shift in behaviour is the increased emphasis on experiences over possessions. After the global financial crisis, real growth in spending on durable goods fell, and spending on services grew. Consumers cherish more intimate experiences instead.

In education, carefully rationed investment by the government means that the public school system survives (although it is smaller), while in public healthcare, a basic version of public-subsidized coverage continues, even as service levels lapse. Many retired doctors and nurses are persuaded to come back and give their services free of cost for small parts of the week.

Barbados’ tourism product is considered to be tired and old-fashioned, though it still appeals to a small segment of visitors. Revenues from tourism are down, leaving many unemployed and less money for re-investment in the industry. Many hotels are suffering from neglect. To make matters worse, the unrelenting scourge of sargassum seaweed has hurt the entire Caribbean, including Barbados, and rising seas due to climate change have scoured away some of the island’s best beaches.

Security within society is a concern, so more surveillance cameras have been installed, and community leaders work to preserve social peace. The famous Bajan social cohesion stretches, but holds.

As the local economy struggles, many things from the real and imagined “good old days” are eagerly adopted. Nostalgia provides an increasing interest in how past Bajan generations lived and flourished. “If they did it, we can too” is the new emerging attitude.

The natural environment is cherished since the population understands it must live off it more. Garbage is carefully controlled, local foods flourish, and a widespread eco-conservation development has helped. In the food supply, a strong permaculture and hydroponics movement has blossomed to help families feed themselves, and home vegetable gardens are the new rage.

With falling consumer demand, a “post-marketing” world has developed. Old sales methods no longer work, and many big stores shrink or go out of business as conservatism becomes a badge of honour.

The reduced expectations have also led to greater “inner-directed” movements and a new level of spirituality. Formal and informal religions have made a strong comeback, and new religions have blossomed and contend with established ones for congregations. In local issues, there is strong citizen involvement, and the government holds online “instant referendums” on many issues. If you’re not online, you’re out of the loop.

BARBADOS 2030 “STILL STANDING” one possible scenario

Under a contracting economy and resulting smaller population base, Bajan society develops reduced personal expectations.

People adopt a more modest lifestyle, good-health habits. Eco-focus farm-to-table food growth. Tourism contracts sharply, unemployment up. Repair shops and renewables blossom.

Description. The economy of Barbados faces significant challenges in a world where populism and restrictive trading blocs dominate. The government’s 10-year BERT program, while partially successful, has not been able to address major imbalances that still exist in the public accounts. Due to a falling tax base, the government’s options are limited, and hard choices must be made about which services to fund and which to leave to private enterprise. The government continually emphasizes the importance of collective social goals over personal wealth and consumption and urges citizens to work together and cherish the things that made Barbados great.

In response to the challenging economic climate, businesses in Barbados have shifted their focus towards longevity and value. They emphasize good quality, re-use, and ease of maintenance to appeal to the new frugal consumers. However, the shift has been challenging, with companies facing a steep learning curve, leading to lost orders, slow delivery, and inaccurate order-fulfilment.

Barbadian society has also undergone a significant shift in values, with an increased emphasis on experiences over possessions. Real growth in spending on durable goods has declined, while spending on services has grown. This change has resulted in a greater appreciation for intimate experiences.

In education, the government’s limited investment means that the public school system survives, albeit smaller, while in public healthcare, a basic version of public subsidized coverage continues to exist. Many retired doctors and nurses have been persuaded to come back and give their services free of charge for small parts of the week. However, many Bajan families still pull every string to get their children into overseas universities, knowing that few will ever return to their country of birth.

The tourism industry, which was once a significant source of revenue for Barbados, is considered tired and old-fashioned. Though it still appeals to a small segment of visitors, it is not enough to satisfy the country’s needs, and revenues from tourism have declined, leaving many unemployed and less money for re-investment in the industry. The unrelenting scourge of sargassum seaweed and rising seas due to climate change have also hurt the island’s beaches.

Despite the economic challenges, the Bajan population has embraced a renewed interest in the past and adopted many things from the real and imagined “good old days.” Nostalgia provides inspiration and motivation for people to learn from past generations and their successes.

The natural environment is cherished, and efforts are made to live off it more sustainably. Garbage is carefully controlled, and local foods are flourishing, aided by a widespread eco-conservation development. The food supply benefits from a strong permaculture and hydroponics movement, and home vegetable gardens are gaining in popularity.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley retires from public life, exhausted from over a decade of struggle, and is elevated to a Dame and Governor-General. To win consumers, businesses switch their appeal to longevity, emphasizing good quality, value, re-use and ease of maintenance. Companies also cut costs, adopting B2B principles wherever possible to save up to 90% in servicing costs. The learning curve is steep, with lost orders, slow delivery and inaccurate order-fulfilment and customer frustration.

As conservatism becomes a badge of honour, a “post-marketing” world has developed, where old sales methods no longer work, leading many big stores to shrink or go out of business. With reduced expectations, there is a greater focus on inner-directed movements and spirituality, leading to the resurgence of formal and informal religions. Citizen involvement in local issues is also strong, with the government holding online “instant referendums” on many issues, allowing older people to exert their voting-numbers to shape new initiatives.

Finally, medical marijuana has become a small but expanding source of business for Barbados, competing with Jamaica, St. Vincent, and other islands for a share of the market. Despite the many challenges Barbados faces, the Bajan community remains optimistic and committed to rebuilding their society with a renewed focus on traditional values and sustainability.

We’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on these two 2030 Barbados future scenarios. Please leave a comment below or reach out to BajanThings who will forward your message to Greg Hoyos.

Responses to “Barbados in 2030 – Scenarios 1 & 2”

  1. Linda Standard-Douglas

    Thank goodness the days of people ‘knowing their place’ are in the past, in large part thanks to the efforts of Mr Barrow and others.

  2. Norman William (Bill) Karr

    Absolutely love reading your reports on Barbados. I was only there 2 years on the NavFac on the northwest of the island conducting passive sonar surveillance on the Mariana Trench and oceans looking that-a-way in 1965-’66 when they gained their independence…and fell in the love with the island and toured it by myself on foot, vehicle and horse pretty extensively.

    Accra Beach was my primary hangout, and for breakfast I would order their tea and breads, which had 4 or 5 types of breakfast rolls, and just enjoy the morning on the outside patio. Back then it seemed like there was a distinct “caste system” on the island, with the white plantation owners seemingly calling the shots, but in a very benevolent way (Of course, or they wouldn’t have cane cutters or house helpers or cooks, etc.)

    I really never saw any prejudice to speak of. The street mongers back then were yelling “Six flying fish for a quart”……pretty cheap, and sure loved eating them.

    The turnover of the island from England was really kind of a non-affair….no riots or anything I remember, some fun jubilation and I think the sales of Mont Gay rum and Banks Beer climbed substantially that week.

    It seemed to be a very harmonious island, and not meaning it to sound racial or to define people, but everyone seemed to “know their place” in the island ranking and accepted it happily.

    Back then the primary tourists were all coming from Canada…..and I fell in love at least 100 times with French Canadian girls. One I liked so much I flew up there to visit in Montreal and surprisingly, there was a Merryman Concert there and we went to see it. I wasn’t aware that she had a long time boyfriend, and he had followed us to the concert and came up behind us and sucker-punched me. She was beautiful, but not THAT pretty…I was out on the next plane.

    Keep up the good work!!

    Bill Karr

  3. Linda Standard-Douglas

    What a great, insightful article!

    The title also reminded me of the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, in particular the goals for education (SDG4).

    I think that the excellent reputation of Barbados’ education system and the University of the West Indies could be utilized to extend their reach by offering more online programs in higher education.

    Online higher education now enables the learners of today to search for programs worldwide, especially in post-graduate studies.

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