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A Prerequisite for Future Prosperity

CompetitivenessLast November, while attending a conference sponsored by CADE, in Urubamba, Peru, I had the pleasure of meeting Harvard Business School Professor Michael E Porter, who delivered a presentation on "Strategies for Sustaining Growth and Prosperity in Peru".

Professor Porter is a world renowned economists, and expert in the area of competition; his seminal work on "The Competitive Advantage of Nations" is a must read for prudent 21st century politicians and political aspirants.

After the lecture, we exchanged pleasantries. I commended him on a brilliant presentation, so much of which was applicable to the emerging nations of Latin America and the Caribbean in general, and Antigua & Barbuda in particular. We touched the declining economic plight of Caribbean states in the new global economic environment, and after much prodding, he reluctantly explained that although the havoc caused by the global economic crisis cannot be ignored, the macroeconomic policies of Caribbean states are largely based on advice rooted in twentieth century economic ideology and supported by either dated or no scientific research.

I must admit a profound respect and admiration for Professor Porter’s scholarship and his expertise in the area of competition, and I tend to agree with his recommendation that attaining a “competitive advantage” is the express track to economic recovery and prosperity for small, emerging states like Antigua & Barbuda.


Although I was convinced as to the efficacy of the advice he proffered, the exchange left me with a nagging need to decipher what, if any, competitive advantage(s) Antigua & Barbuda presently has or could attain in the short term. To say that Antigua & Barbuda is delinquently uncompetitive is to state the obvious. Albeit, the answers to the essential questions of HOW Antigua & Barbuda could gain global competitive advantage; and in what market or area of endeavor should such an advantage be pursued were significantly more elusive than my fragile ego could tolerate. In the end, my relentless desire to uncover at least one solution eventually revealed a simple delectable possibility, which I will attempt to explain.

Operational Definition

According to www.businessdictionary.com, competitiveness is the “… ability of a firm or a nation to offer products and services that meet the quality standards of the local and world markets at prices that are competitive and provide adequate returns on the resources employed or consumed in producing them.” This modern concept of competitiveness “captures the awareness of both the limitation[s] and challenge[s] posed by global competition, at a time when effective government action is constrained by budgetary constraints and the private sector faces significant barriers to competing in domestic and international markets.”

Self-Assessment

In the new world of over 220 recognised countries that are in fierce, desperate competition for every conceivable regional and international economic advantage, it is extremely difficult for a small nation, with a highly vulnerable economy, like Antigua & Barbuda, to carve out any reasonable niche market through which it could garner competitive advantage, and secure the economic gains necessary to create jobs, grow the economy, and return the nation to former prosperity.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, one thing for sure is that “difficult” has never meant impossible, and I for one am of the opinion that as a nation, we do not have the option of further placid apathy while we, the ship of state, remain aimlessly adrift towards the proverbial tributary. I can recall when little Antigua & Barbuda enjoyed global competitive advantage; we once housed the lion’s share of all the internet gaming in the world. We were a world-class jurisdiction that dominated the global competition in a multi-billion industry. Accordingly, we must take solace in the idea that because we have done it before we can do it again. How do we get there?


To its enduring credit, the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) government created the legislative framework, secured the requisite partners, established the governmental agencies, created the policies and selected the local talent necessary to lead the global internet gaming industry. Our dominance was coveted by the deep pocketed, well-connected, gambling cartels of the United States, and they invested millions to pull the rug out from under our feet. We fought them all the way at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and won a token victory ... then the government changed. To make a long story short, there eventually came a time when we completely lost that highly lucrative competitive advantage and in that connection, have been overcome with collective regret, political sorrows, and economic distress ever since.

Attaining National Competitiveness

According to Professor Porter, “a nation’s prosperity depends on its competitiveness, which is based on the productivity with which it produces goods and services.” He beckons us to appreciate that "national competitiveness is rooted in a nation’s microeconomic fundamentals, the sophistication of its operations and economic strategies, and the quality of its microeconomic business environment.” Indeed, an understanding of the microeconomic foundations of competitiveness is fundamental to successful national economic policy, but it must be emphasized that sound macroeconomic policies and stable political and legal institutions are necessary, but not sufficient conditions to ensure a prosperous national economy.

While we bear witness to businesses closing their doors after years of prosperity, and others leaving to more competitive jurisdictions or retrenching large numbers of workers, our bungling government still does not seem to have received the memo. Eloquent speeches and voluminous documents with clever acronyms CANNOT revive our economy. Moreover, the UPP’s 20th century economic ideology of sitting back and waiting on taxes from the private sector CANNOT work in a small economy with a tiny private sector, where the government employs most of the workers.

Becoming the Marriage & Divorce Capital of the World

We have grieved over our economic losses long enough; it is time to “get up and get”. Life was grateful enough to send us some lemons. It’s time for us to use those same lemons to make lemonade and start selling it globally. I propose that we reclaim our former dominance, starting with a strategic foray into a niche area of marriage and divorce. This is a multi-billion dollar industry, and one in which we can pursue competitive advantage by simply creating the legal infrastructure and using the internet for Antigua & Barbuda to quickly become known as the “easiest (best) place in the world to get married or divorced.”


In short, I am proposing that Attorney General Justin L Simon QC start earning his keep. He has not demonstrated the perspicacity to originate any creative ideas to help his adopted home out of its current quagmire, but I am fairly certain that he is bright enough to follow simple instructions. The idea is to quickly change the laws and make it easier for couples to get married in Antigua & Barbuda than in Las Vegas, where an average of 500 people get married each day. Correspondingly, couples must be able to get divorced in Antigua & Barbuda more easily than anywhere else in the world, including Mexico. Then use the internet to tell the world.

If the marriage license application process was simplified and a revocable marriage license was made available to couples online, this facility could mean a radical increase in the number of couples electing to get married in Antigua & Barbuda. The obvious effect of these additional arrivals on tourism cannot be overstated. Likewise, the establishment of a non-contentious divorce court, which accepts online divorce applications and quickly processes and awards divorces, based on the sworn statements (affidavits) of a single applicant, who is required to appear in person, could also contribute significantly to our dwindling tourism and ailing economy.   

For many people, the decision to get married or divorced is one of the most significant in life. The traditions, customs, formalities, legalities processes, and procedures associated with marriage and divorce can be extremely nerve wrecking. Thousands of couples would greatly appreciate an easy way to get hitched, or unhitched, as the case may be; the popularity of Las Vegas “quickie” marriages, and uncomplicated Mexican divorces are strong testimonies of this reality.


Countless couples would prefer to have a quiet, intimate, exclusive wedding in Antigua, and then have the reception with friends and family in their hometown. Worldwide, people are getting divorced at a rate that is as fast as, if not faster than the rate at which they are getting married. After the love fades, many couples would find it advantageous to get lawfully divorced in Antigua & Barbuda and then return home unattached to deal with custody and division of assets in the courts where they are domiciled.

As we strive to solidify our competitive advantage in a niche area of marriage and divorce, the government should seriously consider decriminalizing the victimless offense of polygamy. We can lead the western world with laws that give consenting adults the right to marry as many husbands or wives as they please. Indeed, rich men and women in high tax jurisdictions may see the advantage of acquiring additional spouses in order to claim more dependents and consequently pay less to the state in taxes.

I cannot come this close to such a controversial topic and not touch it, so while we are seeking to revive our economy by any lawful means necessary, the government is encouraged to accept an “in for the penny, in for the pound” disposition and legalize same sex marriages. This is more about the morality of securing revenue to ensure that poor people have the resources to put food in bellies of their hungry children, as opposed to supporting the perceived immorality of homosexuality. We already have legislation according limited rights to same sex unmarried couples; I cannot see the moral danger of proceeding to the next logical step, particularly considering the national economic benefits of the instant proposal.

I want to make it abundantly pellucid that these ideas should not be interpreted on an all-inclusive basis. The powers that be should “tek time and walk fast” … feel free to select the aspects it deems most likely to help revive our sickly economy. I notice that the UPP government remains averse to good advice, particularly the counsel of those born and bred in Antigua & Barbuda. I predict that the same local talent they refuse to acknowledge will be leading the clarion call for change, which will ultimately result in the undoing of an arrogant government that came to power on the promise of championing the rights of the people they now disgracefully reject.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is the nom de plume of an Antiguan born “knowledge broker” whose intercontinental exploits involve work as a university founder and educator, military strategist, international legal consultant, United States prosecutor, published author, trade advisor in Latin America and international investment counselor.

The inimitable acuity of the “Pimpernel” is sought after by entrepreneurs, investors and governments from Dubai to Brazil. Recent work, created for Latin America, which speaks to the conjunction of technology and education to reduce cost, motivate students and improve testing results will be translated and introduced to school systems across the Caribbean later this year. “Employing anonymity to domesticate the ego ...”



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25 Comments In This Article   

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Tenman

#25 Devils Right Hand » 2011-06-06 17:21

You agree in preserving puritanical moral values while our people are starving, but you admire the Sin City Plan that Jamaica has adopted to grow its tourism product. How do you reconcile
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Devils Right Hand

Antiguan Abroad

#24 Professor » 2011-06-06 17:18

There is a bigger issue that we are not talking about enough. Whether ALP or UPP is in power means little to us as far as change in life circumstances ... we are going to continue enjoying our six figure income lifestyles.

But there are hundreds and possibly thousands of poor people in Antigua and Barbuda that are REALLY SUFFERING ... I have never seen so many beggars in the streets of Antigua in my half century ... some people are LITERALLY DYING OF STARVATION and other causes related to nnot having money.

Incompetent governance affects many people lives in a devastating manner. Any person that takes time out of his/her busy professional life to offer free, patriotic advice to improve the lives of Antiguans and Barbudans is a HERO in my book. Most of us are just satisfied to talk, but this Scarlet Pimpernel and Dr. Newton, who is obviously accomplished, continue to feed the government ways and means to help poor people. I am grateful, delighted and impressed. Keep up the good work guys ... move to the front of the class and take a bow.
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Professor

RE: A Prerequisite for Future Prosperity

#23 Antiguan Abroad » 2011-06-06 16:08

Dr. Newton, thank you for your very gracious comments. Your regular contributions to this forum (along with the Scarlet Pimpernel and others) serve an incalculable benefit in sparking spirited debate among the many readers. Keep up the good work!
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Antiguan Abroad

RE: A Prerequisite for Future Prosperity

#22 Antiguan Abroad » 2011-06-06 16:03

Professor, I believe you inadvertently used my moniker in your last post. I have not fully discounted SP's recommendations...I believe I cautioned that it could potentially erode the moral fabric of the local society since the marriage laws would be applicable to Antiguans as well (including ease of divorce). But if that's what most people want to do, I'd be the last person to strenuously object. I can't so easily "forget" about polygamy and same sex marriages mentioned in the article, since these are major incendiary issues that should not be casually bandied about. As for competing with Vegas for this niche market.....I don't know if you've been to Vegas (I've been there more than I care to admit)....but along with the quickie marriages, comes the associated drunken and drug-fueled debauchery...typical ly from a younger, more boisterous crowd. Antiguans have to decide whether they can cope with these associated perils.
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Antiguan Abroad

Professor ... the power of words

#21 Antiguan Abroad » 2011-06-06 14:26

I am sure that you get the point that the writer is making ... MAKING ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA THE BEST PLACE TO GET MARRIED OR DIVORCED IN THE WORLD. The key idea is to radically enhance destination marriage and divorce concept and make Antigua & Barbuda COMPETITIVE in those niche areas, because they have the potential of being very lucrative.

Forget polygamy and same-sex marriages, which were only included to show how far the writer is willing to go to help revive the economy. How can you say that you do not see how thousands of couples and supportive friends and family travelling to Antigua to get married and divorced would help the economy.

Then you reject a proposition that the writer does not make ... the article clearly states, "After the love fades, many couples would find it advantageous to get lawfully divorced in Antigua & Barbuda and then return home unattached to deal with custody and division of assets in the courts where they are domiciled."

My friend It seems like the words same sex marriage and polygamy forced you to throw out the baby with the bath water ... you are usually much more brilliant in your analysis.
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Antiguan Abroad

Che, Rusco, Marco Polo

#20 Devils Left hand » 2011-06-06 13:56

I am so sorry that you guys did not understand the article, and I know that reading it again would not make any difference ... reading comprehension is not for everybody
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Devils Left hand

Antiguans do not read, but I am sure they can count.

#19 Professor » 2011-06-06 13:31

Am I the only person who read the caveat in the concluding remarks which stated:
"I want to make it abundantly pellucid that these ideas should not be interpreted on an all-inclusive basis [obviously realizing the objections to POLYGAMY & SAME SEX MARRIAGES]. The powers that be should “tek time and walk fast” … feel free to select the aspects it deems most likely to help revive our sickly economy."

Critical Analysis
If Antigua & Barbuda captured just 10% of the Las Vegas marriage market share, we would have an additional 50 marriages in Antigua per day instead of that number per year ... approximately 18,000 couples per year along with a few close family and friends (tourists) coming to Antigua for these marriages. This translates to over 100,000 additional visitors per year, and we have not yet touched the divorce numbers, which we can reasonably expect to be comparable...

If each marriage licenses cost one hundred US dollars it means an additional 1.8 million US dollars per year simply in marriage license fees ... divorces should yield more. Are we really in a position to reject easily implementable ideas to help the economy?
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Professor

@ Antiguan Abroad

#18 Dr. Isaac Newton » 2011-06-06 10:16

Hi Antiguan Abroad, given my Christian framework, I agree that there are serious moral concerns about marriage and the family that would override SP’s proposal for re-igniting the economy. I hold that both ends and means must cohere, but I am aware of the functional distinctions between church and state as well as the underlying relationship between what is legal and what is ethical.

Yet, I felt that SP’s innovative ideas correlated with my desire to encourage residents and citizens to think/act in non-self-interested ways with relation to nation- building endeavors. All economic decisions are riddled with ethical implications and outcomes are often profoundly moral. Simply because I affirm a bright economic idea does not automatically means that I nap in the shades of my moral beliefs.

I admire your courageous spirit. Your comments often displayed fair-mindedness, compassion, justice and consistency. Thanks for calling me out on this one!

Bright and Sunny regards,
Doc
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Dr. Isaac Newton

@smart one

#17 Good Job Bob » 2011-06-06 01:00

Functionally legal (in some municipalities taxed) marijuana is already a multi-billion dollar industry in California. If Antigua were to legalize it would have to be for tourism. Think Amsterdam but with beaches instead of museums.
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Good Job Bob

Just another opinionn #2

#16 Smart One » 2011-06-06 00:23

The Chinese will distribute it for us. And all the major Pharmaceutical companies will be knocking on our doors. As it relates to the religious use and the pleasure use of it we can put strict policies in place who can sell and where it can be used, and who can plant it. Rasta’s must be registered users and so must glaucoma patient and others. Anyone that wants to be a ganja farmer must get a license with strict production rules. We have been made to think that the marijuana plant is evil but nothing is more further from the truth. This plant lends itself for many different uses and will surely bring lots of jobs and taxes in the government coffers. Just need bold steps from bold politicians.
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Smart One

Just another opinionn #1

#15 Smart One » 2011-06-06 00:22

Although I have made some suggestions before, I must agree that this is just another suggestion and we need to look at the pros and cons of this. Usually I do agree with the views of SP, but my moral value on this issue is not ready to accept all of it as yet. Although I know todays moral values could be gone tomorrow. For my suggestion for Antigua is still to legalize Marijuana. And not just to let everyone get high, but to produce it in the first instance for it medical uses. We can wait till California or one of the European countries do so, and then follow. Or we take the lead and with the Chinese start a pharmaceutical industry.
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Smart One

re: A Prerequisite for Future Prosperity

#14 fnpsr » 2011-06-06 00:08

I agree with Antiguan Abroad, Morris, Tenman and "fix things first". while I usually enjoy reading the "Pimpy's" articles, this one rerally shocked me. I would be interested to hear from the smoe of the civic grouips about the contrpversial proposals.

My way of helping, what is your take on these proposals?

"let's fix the little things before we attempt to fix the big things".
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fnpsr

RE: A Prerequisite for Future Prosperity

#13 Fix things first » 2011-06-05 20:04

While I agree that this may be an idea worth considering, we have to ask ourselves who would come to Antigua to get married when there is Vegas. Depending on where you are in the US an airline ticket (round trip) costs anywhere from $150 to $500US. Compare that with over $1kUS to go to Antigua. Hotel rooms Vegas cater for all pockets from $50US to how much you wanted to spend. Added to that the all you can eat buffets and you again come to the question of who would we be marketing to for these marriages/divorces. People go to Vegas because you can have a great time and get good service and good meals without spending a lot of money. The same cannot be said of Antigua. The average person cannot afford to come to Antigua and the wealthy individuals may come, but they don't make up the majority of that market. I think what we need to do is improve our services first, clean up our country and then we can talk about competitive advantage.
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Fix things first

@tenman

#12 naiomi » 2011-06-05 16:58

Well said Tenman. Jamaica is a beautiful country and they are very proud people and LOVE THEIR CULTURE. When it comes to customer service they have the best in the Caribbean. They use all of there resources they have and Antigua neglect theirs. There is so much to our little Paradise all we have to do is market it properly but I guess no one is listening.
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naiomi

Stagnation

#11 ServiceT » 2011-06-05 15:02

Thank you for article SP. At least you have put an idea or two on the table, which cant be said of those that don't agree with you, and especially the present government. However, I fear Antigua and the majority of Antiguans are not evolved enough in their thinking to even consider such a proposal. It maybe still a few decades away, if we start educating our youth now, that in the future we may be, well for lack of a better word....evolved.
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ServiceT

my take

#10 tenman » 2011-06-05 13:04

Others like Antiguan Abroad have voiced some of my opinion. I just feel the need to state that instead of simply looking for new options, we should look at fixing existing options that are not performing. I find myself seeing figures from Jamaica which show their tourism numbers are growing. Some suggest that this may simply be luck but I rather doubt that. Jamaica has a plan that they have been focused on and a major part of it is using tourism to provide jobs to its people. Part of their strategy is to have on time information on tourism bookings. Imagine the better marketing efforts that could be made if we knew our numbers on time. Because of industries like gaming, Antigua has persons trained in working and operating call centres available, why aren’t we using these persons in booking tourists? Salaries should be hinged on performance. The government will not have to reinvent the wheel since call centres already exist, just simply utilize them in the pushing of our tourism. Why is the AHTA not pushing this?
..
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tenman

RE: A Prerequisite for Future Prosperity

#9 Dessalines » 2011-06-05 12:54

@che, Marco Polo et al I am on the author's side on this one, in that his advice wasnt posited to cure all our economic ill's but to ameliorate them. Antigua Barbuda already has name recognition in marriages I see no harm in streamlining the process and capitalizing on it. How far we should go with it in terms of same sex marriage is another matter. I dont see where the author supported polygamy in his piece.
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Dessalines

@ Antiguan Abroad

#8 Morris » 2011-06-05 12:42

I have to agree with you on this one. We cannot capitalize on these immoralities as our way out of this economic whirlpool.
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Morris

Wow

#7 Papine » 2011-06-05 12:19

and these are the intellectuals in our society, the ones we ascribe certain diety by virtue of their academic achievements... Wow.. based on this "brilliant contribution".. Why don't we legalize prostitution and market it..Antigua "The whoring capital of the World". Slogan "In Antigua we don't partipate we just broker the transaction"... buyers and sellers meet at the freetrade zone....
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Papine

RE: A Prerequisite for Future Prosperity

#6 Antiguan Abroad » 2011-06-05 11:19

Isn't Dr. Isaac Newton often portrayed as a godly Christian man who regularly provides "soul food" for his followers? I found it interesting that he thought this article from the Scarlet Pimpernel (who at least never presented himself as a paragon if virtue) "excellent.....insig htful...and practically relevant". Is Dr. Newton now a proponent of gay marriage, polygamy, etc.? Just curious......
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Antiguan Abroad

RE: A Prerequisite for Future Prosperity

#5 Antiguan Abroad » 2011-06-05 10:47

I give the Scarlet Pimpernel credit for at least boldly articulating his views. His references to Prof. Porter are on point, since the professor is an authority on the subject of competitive strategies in nations. However, I do not see how capitalizing on polygamy, homosexuality, quickie marriages, etc., can aid in Antigua’s competitive bid. In fact, all I can see is that it would further erode the moral fabrics of already declining societal values. The fact of the matter is, Antigua is currently known as a venue for "destination marriages" for foreigners (perhaps marketing strategies can be improved). But it is important to note that these marriages must conform with local laws...therefore, locals would be subject to the same requirements offered to the foreigners. It is also important to note that even if a US citizen (as an example) were to get one of these marriages, it would be relatively easy for a good divorce attorney to seek jurisdiction in the couple’s state of residency at the time of divorce to ensure that the marital assets were equitably divided. So I reject the proposition, but respect the author's efforts to spark debate to come up with better ideas.
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Antiguan Abroad

Not impresssed

#4 Rosco » 2011-06-05 10:41

With all the expertise you have, I was looking for more. Good idea, but too many words just to give me the idea.
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Rosco

Not usally a nattering nabob of negativism but...

#3 Marco Polo » 2011-06-05 10:18

I have to agree with Che on this one.... This so-called "competitive advantage" can be readily replicated in any country in the world (and is to one degree or another - see, for example, the Dominican Republic with its quickie divorce mill). That said, let's see what else we can come up with because this is the key to prosperity.
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Marco Polo

wtf

#2 che » 2011-06-05 10:02

That's the best you can come up with?
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che

Right Direction!

#1 Dr. Isaac Newton » 2011-06-05 08:35

Excellent article, provocatively insightful, and practically relevant! Thanks for sharing SP! Your competitive niche is a resource bank for executing the ideals you advocate. But given the current mindscape, will good sense trump bad policies? Let's pray it does!
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Dr. Isaac Newton

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The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel is the nom de plume of an Antiguan born “knowledge broker” whose intercontinental exploits involve work as a university founder and educator, military strategist, international legal consultant, United States prosecutor, published author, trade advisor in Latin America and international investment counselor.

The inimitable acuity of the “Pimpernel” is sought after by entrepreneurs, investors and governments from Dubai to Brazil. Recent work, created for Latin America, which speaks to the conjunction of technology and education to reduce cost, motivate students and improve testing results will be translated and introduced to school systems across the Caribbean later this year. “Employing anonymity to domesticate the ego ...”

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