Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has urged Barbadian politicians to take a break from the job and search for new vitality and fresh energy in order to ensure the island’s black population gain economic independence during the next 50 years of political independence.
The administrator of the Caribbean’s premier learning institution suggested on Tuesday evening that on the eve of the nation’s 50th anniversary of independence the country’s leaders appear exhausted and bereft of ideas to provide the required economic empowerment.
Delivering the 7th Annual Leo Leacock Lecture, Beckles traced Barbados’ history of the use of legislation over hundreds of years to prohibit the majority of the black population from business involvement, but noted that despite the success of independence blacks remained marginalized from commerce.
The Leo Leacock lecture was among the programme of events for the Small Business Association’s (SBA) annual week of activities, and Beckles told SBA members and supporters gathered at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination that the legacy of black business marginalization was still being passed down from generation to generation.
“The majority of people like yourselves do not feel empowered when you enter commercial places to discuss the projects’ proposals. You feel like an imposter. If that culture still persists, it means that after 50 years of political democracy we have failed our people,” the acclaimed historian said.
“We have to look it square [in the eye] because Barbados is approaching the 50th anniversary of our sovereignty and our citizenship next year. And after 50 years of public governance the majority of the people are still excluded from the economy and are afraid to go into the economy.”
Commending Barbadian leaders for the struggles of the past that led to political independence, he said current leaders needed to regain the energy with which the country was mobilized for political justice, and also for economic empowerment.
“I believe that our political parties need renewal. They need ideological and intellectual renewal . . . now. A second shift is in front of us and we need renewal to garner ourselves for this second shift.”
Sir Hilary said that shift had to be about how the Barbados economy would be opened up to the majority black population.
“We cannot go into the next 50 years excluded from our country’s economy the way we are.
“I would advise all political parties to go into retreat, maybe leave the country, go somewhere, and bring some other people. And get a new wind, a new feel.
“Change the whole paradigm and come back home energized. We need a new spurt of leadership.”