Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Mark Ricketts | Some countries have oil, we have Bolt

Published:Sunday | August 21, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Mark Ricketts

"People always have a way of belittling or trying to explain things they can't understand. But in the world, individuals come along who are exceptional. You have Isaac Newton, you have Beethoven and you have Usain Bolt."

- Stephen Francis, coach of Elaine Thompson

 

Oil-rich countries such as Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia have been able to rack up impressive levels of economic growth while showcasing their wealth with strong external balance sheets.

Usain Bolt is our renewable resource, and similarly, we should be able to rack up impressive growth rates. Instead, since 2008 when Bolt rocked the world with his awe-inspiring performance and had all of China on its feet singing happy birthday to the man of the moment, our annual average growth rate has been less than 1.0%.

 

HUMAN CAPITAL

 

He continued his exploits in 2012 at the London Olympics when staid, conservative Britain was literally draped in Bolt and the Jamaican flag, a testament to the overarching power of our human capital. Yet our growth rate maintained its anaemic performance.

Will Bolt's impressive performance in Brazil alter our growth forecast? If the past is any guide, no.

Unless, of course, Jamaica comes off its purist, elitist stance and recognises that Bolt is our Einstein, is our Alexander Graham Bell, is our Steve Jobs. Usain Bolt, like Bob Marley, is our human capital, which, singularly, is a talent or skill that can be used to create substantial economic value.

American actor Lee Majors had a series on television in the 1970s in which he was the Six-Million-dollar Man. That's Bolt today!

Usain Bolt's talent is enormous. He often alludes to his childhood fancy of playing cricket. If he had not been lured by athletics, we might have seen another Michael Holding, Colin Croft, or Courtney Walsh in the making, although he would add Chris Gayle as well to show he is an all-rounder. Even now Bolt romanticises playing football for his to-die-for club, Man U, which again underscores residual talent.

Bolt's talent is beyond sports. It embraces dance, music, and interpersonal relationships; what to say, how to say it and when. But he is much more than meets the eye.

 

BOLT IS A BRAND

 

Look at the way he sets up the management structure of his company with professional talent in every discipline, liaising, exchanging, and filtering information to maximise performance, revenue, transparency, and accountability. That radial approach to management, underpinned by loyalty, is not only results-oriented and results-driven, but economical and efficient.

Ahiza Garcia, in an article picked up by Yahoo, noted that Bolt is a brand, a track and field icon who has deals with Puma; Nissan; Hublot; Visa; Virgin Media; Japan's All Nippon Airways; Optus, an Australian telecommunications company; and Enertor, which sells sports insoles.

Gatorade named a drink after him. Explaining Bolt's appeal, Jeff Kearney, the head of Gatorade's sports marketing department, said, "Usain's joyful personality, paired with his overall dominance in a sport most people can relate to, results in an athlete who provides brands like Gatorade with true global reach."

The world can't get enough of this exuberant and remarkable phenomenon who has elevated sprinting from just watching a race to participating in a performance that is happening with him and all around him. For him, a race is not just a sprint to the finish. No, it is an event. His vivacious and engaging demeanour makes it a performance to be shared and enjoyed.

For years, Bolt has been used, anecdotally and symbolically, by Barack Obama whenever the president wants to conjure up any sense of wanting something done in a hurry. With that global impact and enormous reach to billions who watch him run and see his ads, Jamaica should be benefiting from sustained growth and development.

I am convinced that unless countries discover natural resources or are truly innovative, the only way they are going to elevate growth rates after long periods of inertia is through boldness, vision, entrepreneurial energies and marketing. And based on my ideas to transform Jamaica economically, which I will continue to outline in my columns in the months ahead, I believe we should capitalise on our superstar's immense talent and impact on the global stage, thus making us a winner.

 

MARATHON EFFORTS

 

This is why I initially proposed a Bolt-Marley-Cliff vacation experience on downtown Kingston's waterfront to jump-start the process of making our major capital city thriving, livable, safe, and secure. But beyond a hotel, I believe Bolt should be having the following conversation with his coach, Glen Mills:

"Coach, as you know, I never did the 400m because the training each day is so hard that it strikes me as hell on earth and I don't think I was made for so much work in one day. But now that I have retired, this economist Mark Ricketts insists that I must ensure that our country grows by at least 5% annually, so I had to go with Prime Minister Holness and Michael Lee-Chin to see President Obama and to see Bill Gates as well. The negotiations were tough, but we got what we wanted.

"I had to go with Minister Ed Bartlett and Paula Kerr-Jarrett to many cruise ship owners to secure new berths as well as double the cruise lines coming into Jamaica. Then it was off with Minister Babsy Grange, Robert Russell and Joe Bogdanovich to meet entrepreneur Pasqualle Rotelle, who organises the Electric Daisy Carnival, which currently attracts crowds of 400,000 paying customers annually in a Las Vegas dust bowl.

"China and Singapore were also on my agenda. With Ministers Mike Henry and Daryl Vaz and Diane Edwards from JAMPRO, we had to twist arms to get major commitments from hotel owners for downtown Kingston's renewal, secure top-flight urban planners in waterfront development, and procure state-of-the-art trains that will link Kingston, Montego Bay and Port Antonio.

"Then it was off to see Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with our prime minister and Minister of Finance Audley Shaw. They had caught up with me after my whirlwind tour in which I had to see many football superstars and managers, including my boys, Messi and Ronaldo. This particular trip, including seeing Canada's prime minister, was to ensure that our major league football teams would be playing on grass surfaces similar to that of Liverpool and Juventus, and Jamaica would have home-grown footballers playing on a Jamaican team that will reach at least the semi-finals of the World Cup within 10 years.

"Mr Mills, what I have told you is not even half of the work I have had to do. This is worse than training for the 400; this is a marathon. I was born Bolt, not Emil Zatopek. Coach, I am coming out of retirement. Could you find my old training schedules, dust them off and get me ready for London next year and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020?

- Mark Ricketts, economist, author, and lecturer living in California, was chief economist of the Vancouver Board of Trade in Canada; deputy chairman of the Jamaica Stock Exchange; assistant editor of the 'Financial Post', Canada's largest financial weekly newspaper; and publisher of 'Money Index', a weekly business magazine. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and rckttsmrk@yahoo.com.