And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams . . . .
–– Acts 2:17
This jotting by Luke in his Acts Of The Apostles loomed large in our purview upon hearing Minister of Education Ronald Jones’ utterances yesterday on his population projection for Barbados by 2024 of 325,000 people. And he doesn’t see our land size of 166 square miles as any excusable hindrance.
If Mr Jones has his way, there will be big bouncing babies in a abundance all over this island, starting nine months from now. And so passionate is the minister and Member of Parliament about the idea, or dream, or vision, we imagine he will be in the vanguard of this project of reformational procreation himself.
And if the new number he envisions cannot be reproduced by Barbadians generally, or his constituents of Christ Church East-Central, over whom he has much influence, because, as he puts it, “the Barbados Family Planning Association [BFPA] has overdone its job”, then as spokesman for the Government, we may expect to see our doors opened to “a careful selection” of peoples “who can deliver children and within a certain age range”.
This virtual nit-picking by Mr Jones is likely to fan fires of perceived “discrimination”, of course. Barbados being long one of the leading economies in the Caribbean and an attractive destination for people from less well-off places in the region would be a lure for the Government’s new procreation plan. But Caribbean nationals not of Mr Jones’ “selection” will find they are not welcome in Barbados, leading to further tensions within the Caribbean Community.
There are bound to be further disputes over interpretations of the provisions of the Revised Treaty Of Chaguaramas, which governs free movement within the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, and further journeys to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Couples coming to Barbados for the distinct and pristine purpose of procreating to bring our population numbers up to the grade will hardly qualify as personae non gratae. Mr Jones, after presenting this unusual and no less surprising alternative economic plan than Dr David Estwick’s while speaking in the Estimates Debate in Parliament yesterday, might want to reconsider this “selection process” he proposes if indeed he will make a successful case for a more swollen population to drive local businesses by a future diverse consumer base.
Mr Jones’ impulsiveness to see a significantly increased Barbadian population is driven by the Freundel Stuart administration’s planned programme of developing the island through “more people paying taxes, more people eating our agricultural produce [if you could wean them off their foreign tastes] and utilizing our manufactured goods and services”.
“Over the next ten years,” the minister envisions it, “we have to change the size of this popualtion. We can comfortably go to 325,000 [and] people could still live in the space they have.”
Barbados is said to have a population growing old of approximately 285,000, which bothers Mr Jones. But BFPA executive director George Griffith has issued a caution. He is not inspired by Mr Jones’ population visions or dreams, and clearly enjoys no wish of seeing the minister’s words fulfilled.
Mr Griffith has warned against the minister getting all excited about this notion of increasing the population and feels he should put a grip on his pants.
We are not sure Mr Jones has thought this matter out fully. Given the density of our population per square mile, and the decreasing number jobs at the moment, and the costs in raising children after the easier and more blissful task of procreating, we think our Minister
of Education may need to consult some more with the experts on family planning and population numbers.