Beyond the idea
Just Beyond Your Imagination. For years, this was the slogan used to promote, advertise, market and create an imagery of our beloved island for the purposes of our tourism industry. The slogan was ably supported by images of sun, sand, sea, cuisine and other attractions, all in an attempt to lure visitors to our shores –– in other words, a paradise for business and pleasure alike.
It has been a few years since we have moved away from regular use of the Just Beyond Your Imagination slogan, but our response to our current economic challenges and commentary from certain sources suggest we are fighting to retain and preserve that former glory in all aspects of our national existence.
Dr Ralph Gonsalves a few months ago in his speech The Idea Of Barbados made the following comments:
It assumes a veritable autonomy as a category beyond the Community. The diaspora scattered overseas has come to draw from the “specialness” known as the idea of Barbados.
The unique “idea of Barbados” does not, and cannot, make Barbados immune from the universal laws of history, society or political economy.
Dr Gonsalves’ entire speech, I think, is a must-read for all Barbadians (the St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister’s address was carried in the April 3, 2014 Barbados TODAY edition) ; but for me it reinforces the important fact that The Idea Of Barbados is more than just beyond our imagination; it is our reality. But it is our action or inaction that threatens its sustainability and appeal. If we continually fail to act, and move with urgency, the idea of Barbados will indeed drift beyond our grasp.
Essentially, the Barbados our forefathers, post-Independence leaders and each of once envisoned is no further out of our grasp than ever before –– it is simply ours for the taking if we want and are willing to work for it.
We as a Government, businesses and a people have become comfortable and complacent in the idea of Barbados, rather than being proud of our accomplishments and becoming more industrious. The idea itself, however, cannot achieve our goals or overcome the challenges that currently confront us in many areas.
There are numerous reasons why we have not or are not achieving all we need to, and at the rate we should, and I have no issue with this. However, I believe we can all do better to preserve this idea of Barbados.
For the past two years I have sat at numerous meetings and have been privy to a range of outstanding issues (many of which are of public record) that exist for us as island, and somehow we appear unable to surmount the challenges and bring important matters to fruition. What are some of the things that we can do to preserve and revive the true idea of Barbados? Here are a few critical ones:
1. The citizenry. The Government, private sector and labour must do right by the citizens to avoid the feeling of disillusionment and distrust that is currently infiltrating our society. All parties must commit to ongoing consultation and communication in the interest of maintaining the Barbados that we have all become so accustomed to in every aspect. There needs to be a new level of cooperation between us as Barbadians; there needs to be a rekindling of the confidence we once had in leadership, in industry, in labour –– in essence a renewal of confidence in what we know Barbados and whom we know Barbadians to be.
2. Business facilitation. We know that our ability primarily through our systems do not adequately allow proper business facilitation. The idea of Barbados remains just beyond our imagination if we refuse to be more proactive in this area. We are now furnished with the examples of our sister isles Trinidad and Jamaica which have taken urgent action and set timelines in these areas, and have seen the results in short order.
What stops us from doing likewise? Has the business facilitation unit promised some ten months ago become a reality as yet? Do each of us as professionals, civil servants and other employees yet understand our role in this area and how it will affect each of us and our country?
3. Legislative agenda. For years we have been aware the lack of updated legislation to facilitate our changing environment and even to enact new
policy. We have collectively lamented the lack of human resource within the Chief Parliamentary Council’s Office.
We have accepted that steps need to be taken to address the backlog that that office represents, but we continue to lament and wait patiently for this to change while several sectors or areas of business remain hampered by lack of changes or required updates.
Our inability to find a workable solution is a threat to the idea of Barbados and leaves our true potential just beyond our imagination. The process of drafting legislation may not be sexy and requires skill, and there has been a shortage throughout the Commonwealth for years –– but as a developing nation dependent
on timely legislative frameworks, we need to set aside funds, engage private lawyers and commence training for the expansion of this department as a matter of urgency.
It is suggested that we can use retired legal luminaries, but let that not be at the expense of the knowledge transfer and training that is now critical.
4. Human Development Index (HDI). The most recent comparison of our HDI to those of neighbouring Caribbean islands adds to my growing frustration with our apparent comfort in comparing ourselves to our peers rather than engaging in meaningful comparison to leading economies and societies which we should use as our benchmark. There can be no protection of the idea of Barbados if we do not continually raise and set the bar beyond our imagination as a means
of motivating ourselves to higher levels of productivity, growth and performance.
Dr Gonsalves further observes:
This idea of Barbados is not coterminous with a narrow chauvinism, island nationalism or a jaundiced arrogance, though some within and without Barbados may mistake or confuse these with the uplifting “idea” itself. The “idea of Barbados” has saved Barbados in the past and will surely enable Barbados to meet successfully its current economic challenges brought on largely, though not exclusively, by the prolonged global economic slowdown from 2008, and continuing.
In Barbados, there is an invisible “genius of the people” which is the foundation of the idea of Barbados. Modern social scientists refer to this social foundation as “social capital” but it is more than this. I find the category of “social capital” an inadequate proxy for the grounded common sense of Barbadians, their social solidarity, their ability to enhance their capacity to come to terms with their condition and environment, and to address in an efficacious way any set of challenges that arise.
More than any other Caribbean nationals, they appreciate that a progressive society is not built on leisure, pleasure and nice time, but
on hard, smart, productive effort. All this is part of the idea of Barbados.
As a nation we have to collectively put our shoulders to the wheel and recapture the essence of the idea of Barbados. We must not let it remain an idea from a former life, but must entrench it within our daily efforts to build this great nation.
The full potential of Barbados cannot and must not remain just beyond our imagination for no other reason but our continued lack of urgent action.
My vote is that we as a people remain firm craftsmen of our fate and protect the idea of Barbados that has placed us in such high regard regionally and internationally.
(David Simpson is immediate past president of ICAB and a director of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF), and serves as co-champion of its finance pillar.)