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Our mirror image

This week in Barbados represents a special moment for the individual to reflect on the conditions affecting national development.

Barbadians should prompt themselves to ask questions such as:

(a) Has independence brought with it the levels of self-assuredness and zeal for accomplishment as our forefathers inclusive of the Right Excellent Errol Barrow would have anticipated?

(b), What kind of mirror image do you have of yourself Barbados?

Interestingly, Sir Lloyd Sandiford says that most of the sovereign and independent countries in the world “mark their national day as occasions to inspire national pride, to stoke the emotion of patriotism, to underline the symbolism of the national anthem, the national flag, the national coat of arms, and the national pledge. Above all, the day is used to call for national unity, and for a recommit to national purpose.”

Today there are many pressing issues and challenging problems facing the Barbadian economy and society; solutions and alternatives appear less forthcoming than should be the case. Moreover, and given the many conflicting utterances and reports that are emerging from within ranks of the DLP administration, the trade unions, and other elements of civil society, one can presuppose the lack of unity or solidarity existing across Barbados at this time.

If independent commentators in Barbados are eager to suggest otherwise regarding the gravity of problems faced by the country or the dichotomised discourses that are reaching the general public as social fears, then, one may conclude that such activists or protagonists are likely to fall into one or more of the following categories.

These groupings are namely: (1) a supreme optimist; (2) a political ostrich; (3) a person steeped in chimera; (4) a simpleton; and (5) a pathological liar.

Reflecting on Barbados’ 46th year of Independence, a number of crucial things are worthy of consideration. The concerns tend to be mainly social, economic, cultural, and political in nature. For example, the property ownership patterns and the distribution of wealth in Barbados since 1966 are factors that criss-cross several spheres, but impact on the well-being of individuals in the nation and the relative stability for which Barbados can feel proud.

These types of factors shape the context in which Barbados’ Independence can be assessed for its meaning and value for the Barbadian citizen. They help to address the dualism that hinges on material and immaterial aspects of the economy and society. Reflecting upon what it means to be a citizen of an independent country, and tracing the historical records that reveal how Barbados has feared since 1966, promotes several important signposts for mapping future directions.

There is no single statesman who is more significant at this time than the exhortations courted by the national hero, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow. Barrow, the first Prime Minister of Barbados, is heralded as the “Father of Independence” and this is against his successful and high-stakes challenge to British authority and rule. In Barrow’s “mirror image speech” that came almost 20 years after Barbados achieved national Independence status, the national hero urged Barbadians to reflect on who they are as individuals and as a people.

In 1986 when Errol Barrow was in fact challenging Barbadians to become aware of their circumstances, it is instrumental that Barrow would have said that the Democratic Labour Party under his leadership “has an image that the people of Barbados would be able to run their own affairs, to pay for the cost of running their own country, to have an education system which is as good as what can be attained in any industrialised country, anywhere in the world”.

It is pitiful that as one reflects on the things negatively impacting on Barbados at the end of 2012, it becomes comprehensible that the current DLP administration has all but abandoned Barrow’s vision.

Barrow wanted the masses to understand where they came from; he urged them to organise along indigenous lines in order to chart a path for personal and national development. Barrow called for the country and people to dig deep, and to speak honestly in determining Barbados’ fate rather than rely on external factors to shape the national destiny. Barrow asked: “What kind of society are we striving for?” The national hero further contended that “there is no point in striving for Utopia” since such hallucination or departure from the pragmatic world we live in would only inhibit the people and country thus condemning Barbados to a position in which “you do not realise your potential”.

Errol Barrow’s hard-hitting and provocative speech demanded the need for continuous introspection. The concept of the mirror image opened an acute curiosity among the nation’s people; it lifted uncertainty to elevated levels of national consciousness. Barrow kindled hopes regarding the state of affairs and enshrined in the individual the tenacity to draw a sense of personal belonging to the Barbadian society. The man that would soon become a national hero insisted that Barbadian people needed to engage their talents for the benefit of all Barbadians and the country.

Barrow’s awareness and his desire to share a vision for Barbados were the things necessary in 1986. One could easily argue that similar awareness and desire by the current political leadership in the DLP are essential, if not forthcoming, in 2012. Barbados’ political leadership, having emerged almost by default, continues to fail to express even a partial vision for Barbadians. Barbadians need the inspiration to hope and strive once again. Barbadians need someone with the foresight to chart the way towards economic progress and national development.

By invoking a mirror image understanding of self and country, Errol Barrow showed that at the root of Barbadian identity is a cultural expression borne out of resolve and resilience, and that such could be harnessed for the overall benefit of moving the country forward, both socially and economically. The potency of Barrow’s mirror image is an incantation that is lost amidst the problems and issues impacting negatively on Barbados in 2012.

The fact that the DLP administration appears inclined to practise postponement and procrastination rather than proactive policy making is a recipe for disaster. This forlorn condition amounts to the DLP not encouraging or influencing Barbadians to be strict guardians of their heritage. Under the DLP it becomes almost impossible for individuals, innovators, entrepreneurs, and the general private sector to be firm craftsmen of the national fate.

In essence, the derelictions of duty by those who are sleeping giants register the drastic failure by the DLP for safeguarding the Barrow legacy and country.

There is no doubt that the mirror image presented to Barbados by the Right Excellent Errol Barrow was itself a social construct. The strength of the mirror image descriptions was built on the edifices of trusting Barbadian people so that they can trust themselves. This mutual trusting is for the sake of the individual to contribute to good and indigenous government as Barbados meets its opportunities and challenges. Trusting relationships are essential in Barbados’ model for achieving national development.

One wonders had it not been for Owen Arthur of the BLP who recently made interventions in which he put to the private sector, corporate Barbados, civil society, and ordinary Barbadians that the political directorate has to “trust the people” once again, whether Barbadians would get to raise with the DLP their concerns over several outstanding issues such as the restructuring and divestments that are to be pursued in the Barbados economy, is speculative.

Nonetheless, it is the BLP that has put forward proposals on the important issues of privatisation, divestment, productivity, and competitiveness. These issues will require major transformations in the ways that Barbadian economy and society are organised in the near future.

Indeed, it is Professor Michael Howard who traced a trend that had emerged since independence but which was also a major obstacle in managing the Barbados economy and development. Howard said then that there existed concern over a situation in which “the high level of structural dependence retarded the emergence of a public policy to diversify the productive base” of Barbados. This had, in effect, negated possibilities for economic growth and national expansion of the Barbados economy.

In more contemporary times, the IMF Article IV Consultation Report of November 2011 argues that “improving the efficiency of government services including consolidating agencies with complementary mandates and reducing the bureaucratic burden on the private sector will help boost productivity growth” in Barbados.

It is precisely the admission of these structural and capacity problems that engender the types of discourse for which the BLP recently put to the country. The strengths and weaknesses of several policy options emerged from within the bowels of the BLP; but these very important discussions have been avoided or otherwise pilloried by the DLP in national forums.

There are aspects of Barbados’ economy and national development that have been actively promoted in one form or fashion by both political parties, and for more than half of Barbados’ years as an independent country, but yet there are still concerted efforts reaching the general public to hide and conceal the options available to the country. This is a political snatching of the people’s pride that is contorted in a discourse of social fear; it is naked deception being practiced by a political party sufficiently desperate to remain in government despite the things that a majority of the electorate is saying. This politics of innuendo and deception is an unfortunate episode given the country’s march after almost 46 years of celebrating Barbados’ Independence. In November 2012, it is pellucid that there are greater attempts by some political operatives to mislead, than for them to lead.

(To be continued in tomorrow’s edition)

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