“EMBRACE THE FUTURE“
I extend greetings to every one of you and a warm welcome to everyone in particular, our overseas guests who are visiting our island paradise for the first time. If this is your first “taste of Jamaica”, I hope that it will be enough to entice you to visit our country again.I’m certain, though, that we are both very pleased to be with you for the opening ceremony of this Congress.
We admire CARAIFA’s three-pronged mission for:
- professional education,
- fostering unity in the Caribbean region, and
- upholding high ethical industry standards.
We commend CARAIFA Foundation’s commitment to supporting the fight against kidney disease which a 2011 PAHO study showed to be on the increase in our region. We also enjoy this opportunity of being with our Caribbean brothers and sisters as you begin brainstorming on how best to enhance your service to your members and to clients.
There is something riveting about this Congress’s theme: “Embrace the Future”. So many images float in one’s mind like a kaleidoscope of assurance and anxiety, determination and insecurity, bold dreams and a seemingly restrictive reality. What is sure however is that the future means change. The ignorance of what will be, despite our best plans, can either energize us for strategic action to seize opportunities and respond to any eventuality, or leave us overwhelmed and despondent.
“Embrace the Future” is therefore a clarion call for us to:
- Prepare ourselves by education and professional development;
- Learn to understand the socio-economic dynamics which will impact on our lives and the situations we face; and to
- Plan as best we can for whatever the future might bring.
It is also a call to believe in our God-given potential to achieve our dreams, despite whatever odds we may face; to believe that we are placed where we are for a purpose and that in fulfilling that purpose, we can and shall make a difference.
We know that to move forward effectively, we must learn from the road we have travelled, but must not be distracted by failures. Rather, failures should be used to illumine our path to success. We must also be very conscious of the realities of the present and learn how to use them to our advantage.
These are truths which each inductee in the CARAIFA Hall of Fame would readily endorse. And let me take this opportunity to congratulate the one who will be so inducted this year.
I heard a story about a Jamaican atheist who visited a Greek monastery perched high on a mountain side. The trip up was by a sort of hamper on a cable. On the way up, he noticed that the rope securing the hamper was badly frayed and asked the Monk who accompanied him: “How often is the rope changed?” To which the Monk replied: “Whenever it breaks”. The Jamaican became an instant believer in passionate prayer.
The moral of this story is not about the power of prayer, though I do believe in divine intervention.
It is that in embracing the future, we ought to consider those issues which can affect our security and not wait till disaster strikes before hunting feverishly for a solution. This is the fundamental truth which underlies the continuing relevance of your profession.
People want to feel secure, but oftentimes those who need your services cannot afford insurance, barely manage to eke out a living and therefore, cannot hear your financial advice. You will need to consider how best to serve the people in these circumstances.
Most countries in our region are experiencing serious fiscal challenges and the situation will not improve significantly in the near term. According to the United Nations’ 2014 report on World Economic Situation and Prospects, projected average growth in CARICOM countries is 3.3 percent.
Most countries are implementing tough macro-economic policies to spur growth after extended periods of either stagnation or decline. In most cases, this growth will not improve remunerations and social welfare. This is an aspect of the immediate future which CARAIFA must embrace.
In addition to these and other social issues such as ageing populations and the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases, environmental and climate change issues will influence your strategies for the future. CARICOM states face the prospect of rising sea levels and heightened risks of weather-related disasters. Active volcanoes and significant tectonic fault lines in the Caribbean region can cause major catastrophes.
The question is the extent to which state and private sector safety nets, including insurance companies, are prepared to support massive rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts in the wake of such disasters.
The future is also about the technological revolution which requires dynamism in the way we do business. Already CARAIFA members would have been adjusting your modus operandi in response to these changes. You also have to be alert to the various tactics of cyber-criminals which could wreak havoc on your own business, as well as on businesses and the very survival of your clients.
New and emerging problems demand that we pool our best intellect and experience to design workable strategies and that we commit ourselves to implementing them. However, regrettably, too often we are stuck in the mode of finding problems for every likely solution.
This reminds me of a story I want to share with you:
An executive member of JAIFA found a Genie in a bottle and was granted one wish. He told the Genie that he hated flying and he hated ships, but he loved attending CARAIFA meetings. His wish therefore, was for the Genie to build a super highway connecting all CARAIFA member countries.
The Genie told him it simply could not be done and that even if he were to try it, he would never get approval from the environmental impact assessment office. So he had better come up with another wish. The Executive said: “OK. Show me how to make all of my Jamaican clients wealthy”. The Genie replied: “Umm…Do you want one or two lanes on that highway?”
On our highway to the future, we must believe that we in the Caribbean have the capacity to solve our own problems. My compatriots would know the mantra of the “I Believe” Initiative which I launched in 2011. It is: There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica. And I believe that this could be applied to all of us in this Caribbean family.
There is so much that is right in this region! The CARICOM Founders recognized this. People readily think of the Caribbean’s natural beauty and resources, the rich diversity and global impact of our culture, the record breaking prowess of our athletes and the warmth of our people.
But we want to also acknowledge:
- our Nobel Laureates;
- the creative genius of Caribbean people;
- the scientific and technological innovations of our researchers; and
- the growing number of micro and small businesses which create more jobs per annum than the larger, more established companies.
All of these are assets which can be used more effectively to fix the problems which plague our nations.
We do not minimize the problems we confront, among which is the high incidence of crime in many of our states. These socio-economic ills cannot be solved by any government acting alone. Moving forward, we should embrace community action, partnerships at all levels and volunteerism as essential vehicles for social transformation.
At national and regional levels our people need to believe in ourselves and our capacity to excel. We need to hone and link our best intellect and technical expertise for the common good. And consistently give of our best in order to maximize our productivity.
We must also value the virtues, principles and traditions on which our nations were founded. The Caribbean is in danger of losing our moral compass with the encroachment of the “anything goes” philosophy of this post-modern era. Let us act now to ensure that the future we embrace does not oblige us to accept as the new norm that which our forefathers considered aberrant and abnormal behaviour.
Finally, as we plan for the future, let us remember the importance of supporting, encouraging and recognizing the best efforts of each other. Our respect for each other, integrity, loyalty and sincerity in being our brother’s keeper must be hallmarks of our inter-personal relations. We should also encourage excellence in performance at all levels and reject mediocrity.
Our Barbadian friends can possibly vouch for this anecdote:
A Barbadian insurance executive was so pleased by the performance of his agents that at the year-end banquet he declared: “You all did so well that I’m giving each of you a cheque for $10,000. If you perform at the same level next year, I’ll sign those cheques then.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hope that CARAIFA will do more than perform at the same level next year. I trust that as a result of this Congress, your achievements will not only surpass expectations, but that you will also find new ways to contribute to the peace, prosperity and wellbeing of our beloved Caribbean region.
May you leave this Congress convinced that under God, you will become agents for the positive transformation of our region.
Embrace the future!