Opening Remarks delivered by Dr. The Honourable David Estwick, Minister of Economic Affairs, Empowerment, Innovation, Trade Industry And Commerce.

Created 06 Sep, 2010
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Mr. Master of Ceremonies, Senator the Honourable Darcy Boyce, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Telecommunications and Energy; Dr. DeLisle Worrell, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados; Miss Ernesta  Drakes, (Ag) Permanent Secretary, Trade, Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Empowerment, Trade, Industry and Commerce; Mr. Wilbur Lavine, Chief Executive Officer, Barbados Industrial and Development Corporation; special invited guest, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen.

It is indeed a pleasure to address you on the occasion of the opening ceremony of this important workshop on alternative energy.  This workshop is in keeping with government’s efforts to highlight the important role that alternative energy must play in our development.

In small developing states such as ours, where competition in all sectors is so fierce there is the need to maximize our technological capabilities.  In order to compete effectively globally, Barbados must be very selective in its development choices and select areas where consideration is given to the sustainability of activities.  Selection of activities that are environmentally friendly, innovative and creative should be encouraged not only in the development of new products, processes and services but also in their improvements.

The government considers alternative energy one of these areas.

Alternative energies are essentially non-fossil fuel sources of energy; they are therefore environmentally friendly.

The environmental impact of fossil fuels has recently been observed in the Gulf Oil Spill.

Harnessing renewable energy sources through cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable technologies can reduce Barbados’ dependency on fossil fuels.  For example, applications of nanotechnology such as solar cells, fuel cells and novel hydrogen storage systems based on nanostructure materials promise to deliver clean energy solutions.  These technologies, together with more traditional energy alternatives such as wind and biofuels applications must be exploited to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Energy is an important input into the development process.  In light of its importance, there has been significant
research and development in energy generation and application.  This has resulted in considerable technological innovation in these two areas.  These two areas will continue to be of strategic policy interest for all countries.

I note that the theme for the workshop is Alternative Energy:  Pathway to a Sustainable Future in Barbados.  There is a very intimate and often complex relationship among science, technological innovation and sustainable development.  Let me now turn to the issue of sustainability.

Innovative thinking is the backbone of scientific development and by extension sustainable development.  Innovation represents a series of processes that link creativity with application.  It is the process by which ideas or intangible thoughts, discoveries, processes and products are created, developed and then taken to the market place.

What is meant by sustainable development?  The World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as “… Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their needs”.  The premise of sustainable development then is to leave the same or an improved natural resource base as a bequest for the future.

The challenge then for us, the present generation, is to develop in a sustainable manner.

The Human Development Report for 2001, which is commissioned by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), links human development to technological development.  The report which is still of relevance today states that “… Human development and technological advances can be mutually reinforcing, creating a virtuous circle.  Technological innovations in agriculture, medicine, energy, manufacturing and communications are important – though not the only – factor behind gains in human development and poverty eradication.

All countries are not at the same level of technological development and achievement.  From a technology perspective, countries are classified as technology innovation leaders (e.g. the USA and Finland); potential technology innovation leaders (e.g. Costa Rica and Malta); dynamic technology adopted (e.g. Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica) or those that are technologically marginalized (most least developed countries).  Barbados is among those nations that are capable of adopting high levels of technology to meet local needs.

The Human Development Report (2001) also revealed that several emerging economies are currently not in the position to be either producers or adopters of technology. It stresses that in this highly technological era countries that fail to effectively use technology are likely to fall behind in human development and will be marginalized in the global economy. 

It is clear that not every country will be actively in the forefront of technological advances.  What is however crucial, ladies and gentlemen, is that in today’s knowledge based global market that every country, despite its level of economic growth, must build its own capabilities to master and adapt global technologies to its local needs.  Barbados is not exempt.

It is therefore imperative that we implement policies to encourage innovations that promote human development through the sustainable use of available resources.

The challenge for all of us present today is to develop the environment and culture for our people to expand their expertise and build their confidence to identify problems and work to find solutions to these problems.  Both the private and public sector has a role to play in helping to develop these skills.

The private sector in developed countries is leading global technological innovations and is equipped to do so because they have much of the capital in terms of finances, knowledge and human resources to lead the process.  In the developed countries for example, private sector investment in research and development accounts for about 50-60% of research and development in all sectors.  The same is not true for developing countries where only about 10% is invested.  In the Caribbean the investment is somewhere in the region of 1-2%.

There is also scope for the private sector to invest more in research and development within emerging economies such as Barbados.  At the national level, there must be collaboration between the private sector and the technology community in both the public sector and academia to address problems of national importance.  To encourage and foster this kind of demand-driven collaboration, it is essential that the private sector feels confident in our science and technology community.  Only through private-public-sector-and-academia collaborations can we really begin to address problems that are mutually beneficial and that enhance economic, human and sustainable development.

It is also essential that our tertiary academic institutions such as the University of the West Indies, the Barbados Community College, and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic structure their science, technology and related disciplines in such a way as to meet theses challenges.  Courses in alternative energy must be included in the curriculum of theses tertiary institutions.

A sustainable future will require innovative thinking.  This will only be achieved through a commitment to science and technology, an investment in capacity building and human resources development by Government. It will also require   a commitment to educational development and fostering a positive attitude to science and technology.  My government will continue to facilitate policies and regulations that will encourage an environment conducive to developing sustainable technological innovations and entrepreneurship.

The challenge for Barbados is clear, alternative energy generation and application must be embraced.  It is the only compelling way forward for our sustainable future.  However, we must build our human capacity, and create the enabling environment for a private-public sector partnership that facilitates the uptake for generation and application of the technologies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.


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