Barbados’s traditional business sector is not creative and is incapable of understanding the need to keep the workforce in place.
It is basically a collection of commission agents interested in buying goods cheaply and selling them at exorbitant prices.
Attorney-at-law, Robert “Bobby” Clarke, made these observations today during an interview with Barbados TODAY.
Dismissing suggestions that the business sector should take up the slack arising from the layoff of public sector workers, Clarke said: “Our business sector is not a genuine one. It produces nothing. It produces absolutely nothing. It is engaged in import export business in order to make a profit. It must not allow agriculture to develop because it would not be able to import the $750 million a year in food items to sell to the poor people. We do not local production of carrots, beets and tomatoes to feed the population, the prison system, the hospitals and support the hotels.
“The import trade will never agree to the idea of producing local food items. The non development of agriculture remains in place to ensure that it supports the political system. If we have a new approach to the production of food we will have a fishing industry which would produce smoked flying fish and canned flying fish. We will not be importing tamarind, beans and okras,”
Commenting on suggestions that small entrepreneurship should be encouraged, the pan-africanist said: “The idea of entrepreneurship in these small Caribbean islands is nonsense. We can look at Swan Street with the little boys selling perfume. These small businessmen cannot make a living out of that. These small businesses do not employ anyone, just the owner.”
Noting that there more than 10,000 students at the Cave Hill Campus, Clarke queried why the campus cannot produce scientists who can improve the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
Addressing the role being played by trade unions in the current economic turbulence, Clarke said: “Trade unionists have become bogged down in their own self interest. They do not ever disclose their salary structures. Top trade unionists are very much part of the ruling class in capitalist countries. Their salary structures are phenomenal. They have refused to take the workers into their confidence. The only weapon the union has against an employer whether it is government or the private sector is strike action. The private sector has many weapons.
“They can lay off workers, make them redundant or close down the business. They understand the system and they use them.”
Clarke refused to accept the notion that the entire region would eventually descend into widespread poverty.
“It has to do with what we see as resources. We have been led to believe that iron ore, tin copper, gold, diamonds and oil are the resources. We have many resources. We have the sun, the sea and we have the Cave Hill Campus with a student roll of 10,000. We should be producing scientists in Physics and Chemistry that would produce new ideas to produce new goods. For example, Sweden has a population of eight million. The population of the Anglo-phone Caribbean is 7.5 million. Sweden produces two of the best cars in the world, the Saab and the Volvo. They produce some of the best watches in the world. It takes you 12 minutes to be processed in the Accident and Emergency Department,” Clarke said.
Commenting on Prime Minister Stuart’s role in the current economic crisis, Clarke said: “Stuart wants to speak, but avoids a discussion. He talks about reading literature. He read a bit of Chaucer, but he does not attempt to get into a discussion. He goes to events where he can speak. The Government is falling apart all around him with Cabinet members doing their own thing.”
Clarke, who was the president of the Barbados Industrial and General Workers’ Union in the 1970s maintained that if he was involved in trade unionism at this time he would lead a march against the retrenchment of poor workers.