What is ‘national development’?
Does the erection of a 15 storey American-owned Hyatt Hotel in Carlisle Bay, abutting Barbadians’ beloved and world famous Browne’s Beach, constitute “development” for the nation and people of Barbados? That is a crucial question that we Barbadians need to grapple with and answer in this 50th anniversary year of our national Independence!
There are some Barbadians who believe that the best way to “develop” Barbados is to invite foreign companies to “invest” in Barbados by either buying up and taking over existing local enterprises or by setting up their own new business enterprises in Barbados and extracting profits therefrom- profits that they are entitled to transfer to their home countries.
It would appear that the writer of the recent Nation editorial entitled “Comissiong off target on Hyatt” is one such Barbadian. He or she argues in the editorial that “foreign direct investors” are critical to economic growth in Barbados, and that foreign investors should always be welcomed since they “provide much-needed jobs” and “generate foreign exchange”. The editorial-writer therefore welcomes the idea of the American multi-national company setting up their towering 15 storey hotel on or near Browne’s Beach.
I, on the other hand, have advanced a very different concept of Barbadian national development. In my recent article entitled “Bajans Wake Up! You Are About To Lose Browne’s Beach!”, I expressed this concept as follows:-
“We (Barbadians) have been operating hotels in Barbados for over 200 years now, and we know about the hotel and tourism industry. We don’t need any foreign tutelage! Let us therefore resolve that future hotel and tourism development will, as far as possible, be based on the construction of locally owned hotels, guest houses and related facilities that radiate the unique culture and hospitality of Barbados and Barbadians. Thus, if there is to be any further tourism related development along Browne’s Beach, let us ensure that it is owned by and evocative of Barbadians. And let Browne’s Beach always remain a place where Barbadians feel at home!”
And so, these are the two philosophically different concepts of “national development” that we Barbadians need to think about and discuss in this 50th anniversary year.
The “development by invitation to foreign investors” model is most associated with the Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico – a country which, despite its privileged access to the American market, is suffering worse unemployment and economic crisis than Barbados or any other English-speaking Caribbean nation! Too late have the Puerto Ricans learnt that the road to dependence on foreign investors is the road to even greater national dependence, lack of self-reliance, and poverty of spirit!
The alternative to the Puerto Rican model is a nation that strives to base its development on a population that is committed to thinking for itself, doing for self, and being its own unique self — a nation in which the people are encouraged (and facilitated by their Government) to get busy and produce for themselves, rather than to depend on some “foreign investor” to come from “over in away” to set up a potentially “alienating” enterprise to employ them.
No doubt, there are circumstances in which the establishment of foreign owned business enterprises in Barbados would be welcomed: namely, when the foreign enterprise would be introducing Barbadians to desirable new and advanced technology, skills and structures of production, and at the same time would not be doing any significant damage to our cultural heritage and identity.
Let us, for example, be prepared to seek out and welcome new “clean” high technology manufacturing enterprises to Barbados: but, so far as tourism is concerned, let us resolve to refine and perfect the beating of our own uniquely Barbadian home drums!
David Comissiong Citizen of Barbados