Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean has said that Barbadians should stop focusing on the price tag for the 50th Independence anniversary celebrations and concentrate instead on the benefits.
Government allocated over $5 million in the 2016/2017 Estimates for the yearlong celebrations, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade assigned a further $750,000 for operating expenses and overseas missions associated with the national celebrations. An additional $1.27 million was also assigned in the last fiscal year.
Critics of the extended programme have questioned the cost. However, McClean, the chairman of the coordinating committee, stressed that the resources allocated for the celebrations “are there not only to party”. In her contribution to the debate on the 2016-2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue in the Senate today, the Government Senator dismissed her “detractors”, suggesting that the festivities were necessary.
“If we start Madam President, to look at expenditure on our 50th [anniversary ] we have to start to look at the short-term, medium and long-term benefits that will be derived from doing those things.
“The Right Honourable Prime Minister has made it very clear the importance of this and also the important opportunity that it affords Barbados to engage in some introspection and serious reflection as to what has brought us here and where we have to go,” she said.
McClean helped to defend the price tag by pointing to plans by Barbadians living abroad to organize activities that will attract the diaspora to the island.
“So one of the things, if we want to look at dollars and cents Madam President, is that Barbadians will come home and spend foreign exchange too.
“They are coming home to continue to connect or reconnect with their roots and heritage, and I believe that any self respecting Barbadian would recognize and appreciate the importance of celebration in a way that allows us to do more than we can quantify in dollars and cents, and that is important,” insisted McClean.
She said the committee had been able to mobilize “committed Barbadians” across a range of sectors “in a way that allows us to get a proper appreciation of what this celebration should mean to Barbados and Barbadians and how we should celebrate it”. (MM)