Annual Report of the Small Business Association
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Albert Einstein once said "imagination is more important than knowledge”, and Professor Avinash Persaud underscored this truism as he delivered the keynote address at the recently held Awards Ceremony & Dinner during Small Business Week.
Professor Persaud addressed the standing room only event, held at the Barbados Hilton, under the theme of the Week – “Small Business as an Elixir for Economic Recovery. The professor spoke about the “entrepreneurial state” and challenged the audience, to conceptualise a greater state than what currently obtained.
The audience, which included policy makers, administrators, financiers and small business practitioners, was reminded of the innovative work of Jean Roddenberry whose television series, Star Trek, paved the way for the creation of mobile and touch screen devices some 50 years later. Professor Persaud revealed that it was “50 years after it was imagined, the tablet came to existence and 30 years later the mobile phone”. The imagination of Roddenberry incentivised someone years later to create these technology tools and proved that if it could be imagined it could be done.
Underlining the role of the entrepreneurial state, the renowned economist posited that the majority of innovations today started through research & development funded by the state. Governments therefore had an entrepreneurial role in encouraging new industries and sectors to emerge. This process should begin with setting the goal of where the country needed to go, helping the citizenry to develop ideas through research and access to finance, and in turn creating nationwide solutions for economic and social growth. He noted that macro funding for many "visionaries", such as the late Steve Jobs was provided primarily as a "helping hand" from the state.
The non-resident senior fellow of the Pierson Institute for International Economics in Washington provided one such example for the Barbadian context – a mobile app to aid doctors to easily diagnose ailments such as diabetes and other non-communicable diseases in a timely and cost-effective manner. Local entrepreneurs, students and interested persons could be mobilised through a national competition to develop the technology for this product.
The presentation from Professor Persaud was hailed by all as not only thought provoking but the kind of national dialogue needed at this time to identify solutions for Barbados’ economic recovery.