Life after festival
This weekend signals the last lap of Crop-Over 2013. Once the partying begins at sunset today, notwithstanding that next Monday to Friday are considered work days, it is quite clear that between now and August 5 celebration is all that will consume a vast portion of the population.
We wish however to caution Barbadians that during the period of revelry we should not lose sight of some important realities that are confronting us. One of the most significant of these is that fact that within the last two months of so we have faced a number of violent acts that should be of concern to all law abiding citizens.
Our aim is not to blow the situation out of proportion and to scare anyone, especially those who visit our country to enjoy the festival, for certainly the situation we face with violence does not compare with most of our neighbours — big and small.
But the reality is that there is a level of violence existing in our society today that is not characteristic of who we are — and it would appear that it has crept in in such a manner that there has been no public outcry. Perhaps we are all consumed with the fears of our own economic situation, which reaches all the way to our doorsteps, while we may not be as bothered by the violence that visits our neighbour.
With 13 murders so far this year compared to ten last year, we should be at least a little concerned. And the fact that an act of violence did not end in a death should not lessen the cause for concern.
As we “win’ and juk” our way through the final ten days of the festival, we may also spare a thought for the problem of low productivity and poor service that so often characterise of daily experience. For sure we are going to have hundreds of visitors, Barbadians who live abroad and others who are not as familiar with our ways, and how we interact with them could determine when they return again.
Visitors aside though, we do need at the individual and national levels to determine what we are going to do to lift our country out of the malaise into which we have slipped. It is almost as though a significant segment of our population is disconnected from the reality of life around them.
In a sense we are all aware of the challenges facing the country, that something has to be done, but are still behaving as though it is the next person who has to act. Well, here’s a reality check: If we don’t all get our act together soon we are going to start slipping below the surface one by one.
We suspect that only a very select group has a clear picture of what will be contained in the Budget that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler will deliver in almost three weeks, but based on all that has been said by the experts in recent weeks it should be clear that he has no magic wand to wave away all our difficulties.
What we should recognise is that while the fiscal deficit can be trimmed by cutting expenditure, another way to narrow the gap is to increase output. So while the big name social partners are talking among themselves about how trimming can be done with as little pain as possible, the other partners can be devising a programme of national motivation to improve productivity by some agreed percentage.
Doing more with the same seems like a sensible, and certainly less painful approach.
We have one other related issue. A school year has just ended, which means that on the face of it about 5,000 young people have just potentially joined the list of Barbadians looking for work. The University of the West Indies, the Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic collectively do not have the capacity to divert many of them.
In the current environment, work prospects are, to put it mildly, bleak. Will we leave them to swell the ranks of the disillusioned? At the national level how will we set out to ensure they retain their desire to be productive members of the society?
Could we possible come up with a programme to utilise some of the nearly two dozen secondary school plants that fall idle by 4 p.m. each day? Can we enlist a corps of retired educators in a variety of discipline to teach? Can we add a new mandate to the Barbados Youth Service, with the assistance of the Defence Force to constructively and productively engage these youngsters, and the thousands more who were already wandering aimlessly, for years in some instances?
So let’s jump, juk, win’, wuk-up for the rest of the festival — but let us not lose sight of the reality that remains ours and which will be still there when the last music truck is silenced on Monday night.