A time for quite sober reflection
Can you truly say today with the utmost confidence, as our parents and grandparents could have, that life for our children and grandchildren will be better than it was for us?
Can you also truly say, if you are an average Barbadian, that you and your family are better off today as a result of benefits under the Pathways To Progress plan of the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) over the past eight years?
If you can honestly say “yes” to both questions, then you have justifiable reason to fully endorse and participate in the Freundel Stuart administration’s $7 million celebration of the nation’s 50th anniversary of Independence.
However, going by current public opinion, it seems those persons would definitely be in a minority because for the vast majority of Barbadians, life, especially in the last five years, has become an increasing struggle to make ends meet as a result of the harsh economic policies of this DLP administration.
At Independence, under the inspiring leadership of Errol Barrow 50 years ago, Barbados was a nation brimming with hope and excited about taking on the challenges and embracing the opportunities of development. The average person looked to the future with confidence that better days were ahead.
The exact opposite obtains today. Under the uninspiring leadership of Freundel Stuart, hope has given way to despair, and confidence to doubt. Barbadians no longer have a clear sense of where they and the country are going after the collapse of the development model that brought unprecedented prosperity to our nation and made Barbados a shining beacon in the Caribbean.
What is worse, however, is the poverty of ideas with which the DLP seems incurably afflicted. Little wonder its inability to articulate a clear and inspiring vision of the future that motivates and gives hope and reassurance to our people. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
We are seeing the evidence in the growing numbers of Barbadians who are penniless, jobless, homeless, hopeless and aimless –– unprecedented in our
Against this general backdrop, what reasonable justification is there for a seemingly grandiose $7 million 50th Independence anniversary celebration? Are we celebrating our collective retrogression? Little wonder so many Barbadians, denounced as unpatriotic by a DLP spokesman, have raised their voices in objection to this kind of extravagance when the administration is asking the people to tighten their belts.
Now don’t get me wrong. We definitely should have some celebration of sorts because a golden jubilee is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but it should be measured and modest in the prevailing circumstances –– one month at the most. More appropriately, however, we should be collectively engaging in deep and sober reflection to clearly determine what went wrong in order to come up with a well thought out strategy to put it right, which certainly is not beyond our capability.
Admittedly, the incumbent DLP was given a tough hand to play as a result of the global recession and other external influences. However, with good communication and a “can do” attitude, anyone can make the best of a bad situation. Both are regrettably lacking in this administration. An analysis of its political narrative reveals too much of a doubtful “we can’t” attitude.
Developing a country can be compared to running a relay race. It is a continuum. The baton is passed from one government to the next until the finish line is reached. Errol Barrow ran an excellent first leg after Independence before the baton was handed over to Tom Adams who ran a brilliant
Erskine Sandiford, when his turn came, stumbled a bit, but eventually recovered sufficient ground that he was able to make a generally clean pass to Owen Arthur who accelerated down the track in a generally impressive performance. However, he was showing noticeable signs of slowing down when he passed the baton to David Thompson.
Before his untimely demise, which robbed the country of experiencing his full potential, Thompson showed good initial promise despite having to grapple with some strong headwinds that severely hampered his pace. Stuart has run such a weak leg since taking over from Thompson that some competitors in the region have closed in on Barbados in the development race and are threatening to overtake.
During most of the last 50 years, these competitors drew inspiration from Barbados as the front runner and looked up to us as their model. Not so sure any more, as St Kitts-Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris recently made clear in comments published in another section of the local Press.
“For a very long time,” he reportedly said, “Barbados had been seen as a model of good government, good governance, good macro-economic policies, model for small states, and certainly over the last decade, Barbados has lost that.”
I wonder if he too, following the latest Moody’s All Fools Day downgrade, would be denounced as a prophet of doom and gloom?
So that, coinciding with the golden jubilee which the Dems are telling us requires $7 million to celebrate, Barbados has suffered an erosion of its prestige in the region, while at home Barbadians can point to many examples where they have retrogressed instead of progressed under the present administration that clearly has dropped the relay baton.
Why, for example, should St Joseph residents be eager to celebrate when they have returned to fetching water from a modern-day version of the standpipe called a community water station? They have been taken back to a past era when the ubiquitous standpipe was the main source of water for households in Barbadian villages.
What too about the hundreds of young people who have had to abandon their dream of bettering themselves through getting a tuition-free university education at Cave Hill, compliments of the Barbadian taxpayer, as some members of this DLP administration did? Their dream was shattered by the introduction of tuition fees, even though Mr Stuart had said such a move would be a “retrograde step”.
I am a patriotic Barbadian and want to see our country shining brilliantly again within the galaxy of a strong, united and prosperous Caribbean. I have devoted my entire working life to supporting this objective. I could have opted to remain in North America where better opportunities were available for personal and professional development. However, I chose out of a strong sense of duty to come back and contribute to the development of Barbados and this region, even though it has involved sacrifice.
I am offended, therefore, by the puerile attempt to pin an “unpatriotic” label on Barbadians who, exercising their constitutional right of free speech, have objected to the $7 million Independence celebrations price tag. In their political zeal, some DLP spokesmen clearly seem to have difficulty differentiating between love of country and love of party.
I am praying that Barbados rediscovers that confident “can do” spirit which once defined us, so that whenever there seems to be no way, it will step in and say: “Yes, there is definitely a way!”
It is vital to creating the enabling environment for a bright future, which is ours for the taking.
We can do it through prayerful and soul-searching reflection that fittingly should be the overriding national focus at this time. Once that is accomplished, we can then indulge in lavish celebration. There will be justifiable reason.
(Reudon Eversley is a political strategist, strategic communication specialist and long-standing journalist.