Some time ago I wrote in this column that moves should be made to empower the people of Westbury Road in their quest to make the most of the interest in Rihanna’s former home. I never claimed it was my idea; in fact, someone close to me first put the idea to me.
News in another section of the media that the people themselves have been making the call was very welcome. They have reported that tourists often stop, take pictures and engage them in conversations about the superstar, which she is without a doubt. The residents have also proposed that her home be made into a museum dedicated to her.
At the time I had also called for some presence at our two ports of entry indicating that this was Rihanna’s home. I haven’t heard anything about that being realised but I’m happy that the people themselves have come out and put forward the idea that they should be involved.
What I find amazing, however, is the official response. Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy is reported as indicating the idea had not been considered by Government but that it was definitely “something that could be looked at”. BTA chairman Adrian Elcock is quoted as saying: “We would encourage residents with the support of other private sector agencies to create a place of interest.”
Well, well, well. Let me ask a question here. Just what are the people in the Ministry of Tourism and the BTA doing? You mean all those technocrats couldn’t see this obvious opportunity? I mean, it’s not exactly rocket science. I’m not sure who the MP for the area is but wouldn’t that person know what was happening in the constituency, that tour buses stop there often and that here was a brilliant opportunity to assist the people in creating work for themselves? If the MP is from the Opposition benches, that makes no difference; the information could have been solicited. All o’dem is friends!
One would think that, having invested so much in Rihanna including her multi-million dollar concert here, the authorities would have been looking for every chance to maximise that investment. When that is added to providing employment and assisting in meaningful and appreciable development of the community tourism people like to talk about, it’s a no-brainer. And no one in the ministry could see that? Wow! Talk about sleeping on the job. I didn’t know Rip Van Winkle was on Government’s payroll. As the English would say, it’s time to pull your finger out, mate.
I honestly feel that’s a serious indictment of the technocrats in the ministry. Don’t any of them pass through Westbury Road? To me it’s about the same as if the minister in charge of drainage said, in response to residents sick of being flooded out, that it is perhaps a good idea to sink some more wells.
Elcock’s response is also interesting. Why should it be left to the residents, “with the support of other private sector industries”? Isn’t this something that Government should undertake? I know Government shouldn’t be expected to do everything but in a case where millions have been invested by Government, shouldn’t that same Government do all in its power to stimulate activity around its investment?
Not private sector’s call
Why should it be left to the private sector? Would it be cool if a Trini came and started up the venture? Does it matter? In fact, if it was a Trini venture, the principals would feel right at home. After all, they have our National Bank already, plus plenty of our major businesses and nuff nuff land.
I find this Pontius Pilate thing of washing your hands of the matter and turning it over to the private sector most objectionable. Surely, if we can spend nuff money on washing a school’s dirty linen in public when the whole issue should and could have been dealt with years ago we can spend considerably less on creating something lasting for the good of a community.
It may be the increasing cynicism that comes with advancing years, I am told, but I find the lack of vision in high places totally ridiculous. There’s never a problem with seeing opportunities which will benefit a closed circle of associates but when it comes to really doing something for the people, all of a sudden some people turn into Mr Magoo.
This is really shameful and, for what it’s worth, I’m suggesting that the big-ups skip a lunch or two and take the time to sit with the people in Westbury Road and explore with them the possibilities that clearly exist. When some people talk about others getting up and doing things for themselves, they are often very insulated from the reality of life for many in Barbados. They seem not to know that an increasing number of people find it hard to do simple things like feed themselves properly or even buy the medication they need.
It’s like the Minister of Health going on and on about the need to have a preventative lifestyle, when the prices of proper fruits and vegetables make them out of reach for the very people that need them. The ministers and other big-ups, of course, have no such problem so it’s easy for them to talk. What about the people, man? What about the people, the same people whose vote you are canvassing all like now?
Perhaps the big-ups are taking to heart Justice Waterman’s “you’re up here, they’re down there” statement.
What a ting. Marcus Garvey must be doing Zumba in his grave, not just turning. Surely we can do better; the people deserve better.