Barbados: What Next ?
By William Skinner
|Barbados Coat of Arms|
At some point, an individual has to look at life and determine whether it is going the direction he or she would want it to. Countries must do the same. As I survey the political scene and pay rapt attention to the rapidly decaying socio –political environment, I am forced to ask myself if Barbadians are really serious about the direction the country is taking.
It is obvious to all objective citizens that the country is in turmoil as it transitions from the quaint little village to the world stage. A stage for which it failed to prepare. Hal Austin, a regular contributor to this blog, got it right sometime ago, when he opined, that we were perhaps fooled by the praise that we constantly heaped upon ourselves and that which others gave us. We were told by the world’s top diplomat that we were “punching above our weight”. We bestowed the title great economist on former Prime Minister Owen Arthur. We declared Errol Barrow the father of the nation. We have thrown about the word brilliant with great carelessness. For example, Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley has been accused of being brilliant! We are a people who declared we had the best of everything: the best education system; the best roads; the best hospital; the best schools and of course a literacy rate of 97% percent.
The irony of the situation is that all of the above is very true when we look at other Caribbean islands. Anybody visiting our sister islands would have to agree that Barbados does have the best schools in terms of construction; the best roads although ours are in a state of disrepair in many cases; the best hospital of any that is used by the entire public, never mind we cannot get the accident and emergency department to function properly and of course we are rather literate. We have Cave Hill producing graduates on par with any of our neighbors; never mind employers say that some of our graduates cannot understand basic arithmetic and English. So what am I complaining or criticizing? Well, we have all these positives and yet we seem very determined to turn them all into negatives. Almost forgot, we have the best public transportation system although we can never make it profitable and our rolling stock is hitting the road with bumpers and fenders missing. Of course the failure to maintain the buses ensures that about 30 or 40 per cent are either parked waiting for parts or have been forced to early vehicle graves by bad driving habits.
I now come to our incredible democracy. Every five or so years, we enjoy three weeks of hectic campaigning. And yes, once again, we can brag that it is probably the most incident free elections anywhere in the world. Nobody gets killed. I think a few decades back, Muhammad Nasser got cut with a bottle throwing thing but I don’t think that it ever made court. No problem. Gone are the days of the half bottle of rum and a few soda/eclipse biscuits with our treasured corn beef. We have transitioned to giving the voters: lap tops, iPods, top end cell phones and Sir Grantley’s image looms large in hands and pockets. According to our dithering, Charlie Chaplin (Silent Movies) Prime Minister, Mr. Freundel Stuart, he actually saw money passing during the last elections. Imagine the Prime Minister witnessing crimes in broad daylight and not one report to the police. Not one arrest. What a crime free democracy!
No more under forties debating the pros and cons of independence; no more exceptional grass roots politicians such as: Lionel Weeks, and Lloyd Smith. Not a Mencea Cox or Ronald Map. No Neville Boxills in site. Oh no, those guys use to throw the occasional jab but talk about policies and were close to their constituents. Even a very well educated fellow like Frederick “sleepy “Smith was down to earth. And according to a young man, whom I have great respect for, Mr.Peter Wickham, that particular breed has no place in his modern Barbados political make up. As far as he is concerned Hamilton Lashley was the last of that ilk. Sad thing, Wickham may be right!
Well, Wickham represents the new breed, armed with a university education and a profession grounded in political science and polling. He is a highly sought after political scientist. He gets almost all his polls right and has only missed one big one here- the very last one when Charlie Chaplin overcame all the fancy sound effects! Maybe if there were more of the above mentioned grassroots politicians, his polls would be more accurate because people back then were a bit more genuine.Oops…
Allow me to close with our esteemed labor movement. In the current debacle regarding the severing of 3000 according to the DLP or soon to be at least 10,000 workers according to the BLP, the unions find themselves out to sea. They are suggesting policies after the so-called Minister of Finance; Mr. Chris Sinkler had enunciated the policy on the floor of the house. I say so –called because Mr. David Estwick is apparently acting as Minister of Finance today (Thursday 12th. Feb 2014) when he presents his own personal views to cabinet to rescue the economy. Just like the unions, he is presenting policies to stop retrenchment of workers AFTER the retrenchment has commenced. Brilliant!
So the workers are left to another regular contributor of this blog, Caswell Franklyn, to defend them while their president runs up cell phone bills in the thousands. Now I don’t know much about wages in our public sector but I seriously believe that $6000 could have kept one of those workers on the pay roll for quite a few weeks or even six months. But the NUPW does not have that kind of strike fund. Modern unions have: Excessive Use of Cell Phones by Presidents Funds! I digress. The workers voice is now Caswell. Now I have quoted, to support my little contribution, two regular contributors to this blog: Caswell Franklyn and Hal Austin. Note I have not attempted to big up anybody from the mainstream press because the problem we have, is that mainstream Barbados, has crashed like mainstream Wall Street and that caused all the confusion.
Stay way from mainstream Barbados thinking and we may just survive this crisis. And a great shout out to Pachamama. Thanks for BU. Sometimes a nation (newspaper) has to take a look at itself.
Willam Skinner is a social commentator