Permit me to reflect on three unrelated issues on our countryscape. I start with a sombre reflection of our recent downgrade; secondly, imploring keep-fit Barbadians using the roads to ensure they stay safe; and thirdly, of course, pondering Caribbean cricket.
Devaluation. Barbados has received its most damning downgrade to date. Our Government bond rating is now at Caa1. Junk bond status is BBB or Baa, according to which agency is issuing the analysis. Caa1 is a whooping eight pegs below junk bond status.
It is also below the Ba1 band, which is characterized as non-investment grade/speculative, and B1, highly speculative.
Caa1 begins the highly speculative band and Caa2 is further categorized as not prime.
The downgrade is nothing surprising for those of us who are watching the happenings in Barbados critically. When the people of Barbados decided to change the Government in 2008, it was because we all understood that Government could not have been done in the same manner as it had been in the post-1990 period.
There were significant structural issues which needed to be addressed at the economic level in the country, and just as many issues of governance which needed attention. The campaign which was run by the Democratic Labour Party in 2008 fitted snugly into what most Barbadians knew this island needed.
Our Caa1 rating is an undeniable indicator that our Government has not stayed true to making the changes which it had lobbied to be the bedrock of moving Barbados forward.
The Government came to power, and it utilized all the exact same approaches to governance. There were no hard decisions made, and the economy of our country has now been unravelled to the point where Barbados cannot return from its economic woes without significant suffering among Barbadians.
The dollar of Barbados will be devalued as a result of the position we are in. The only way this administration can salvage any type of legacy is if it addresses the issues of devaluation frontally. If the Government waits until it becomes a last resort, I fear the project of Barbados will forever be doomed.
If Barbados is going to be forced to devalue its dollar, I think the best way for it to do it is to become a part of the Eastern Caribbean money mechanism. This seems to be the less painful devaluation, since that currency is pegged a little lower than Barbados’ and the integration into that money system seems to present the fewest problems.
I refuse to believe we have no collective power as Barbadians to chart a sensible and sustainable path for ourselves. The time for us to play politics and pretend things are not as dire as they are is gone –– by at least three years. We are in the middle of an economic and social crisis, and it demands answers and response from us.
Keep-fit safety. Behavioural change is one of the most difficult human activities to create and maintain, but the number of Barbadians taking to active exercise currently is proof it can be achieved. Significantly higher numbers of Barbadians are learning that a healthy lifestyle demands movement, and there is a notable increase in morning and evening keep-fit activity.
While I wish to laud those walkers, runners and cyclers who are taking proactive measure for their health and well-being, there are two very dangerous practices I have noted creeping in. There were a number of serious and tragic accidents involving keep-fit individuals about a decade ago. As a consequence, cyclists are now using bright halogen lights to ensure they can be seen.
While I have no issue with their efforts to make themselves safe, any action without balance usually brings us back to just as detrimental place as at the beginning. The lights used by the cyclists are extremely bright, and if you are a driver who suffers with light sensitivity, it becomes a very dangerous thing to have five or six cyclists coming towards you.
One can only hope to be travelling at a speed that makes an immediate halt possible, because the lights render any other kind of navigation and movement guesswork.
The walkers, however, have regressed in ensuring their safety. Exercise pedestrians had taken to wearing reflective vests to ensure they could be seen in the night hours. These vests are no longer utilized as much; and, moreover, some walkers are using black and blue clothing, which are compounding the challenges.
Let’s keep active and get fit; but let us also ensure our actions result in a safe road space for all those using it.
Innings and meanings. I wish to congratulate the men and women of the West Indies on the triple titles we copped in international cricket. I found myself wondering on Sunday what the metaphorical takeaway from the wins was.
One thing is still clear. The Caribbean is still a nest of talent –– raw and harvestable talent. It is only that talent which led to the three titles. We are not doing any kind of credible job at the board level to ensure we are harnessing West Indies cricketing talent. The board can take no credit for the successes and, as with every pool of raw talent, those watching the matches could see the room for improvement.
If the West Indies Cricket Board had invested in the development of cricket over the last two decades, we could not still be at the bottom of the table in the One-Day and Test formats of the game. The WICB has had a “piece-a piece-a” approach to cricket development, much like the “piece-a piece-a” mode Barbados has adopted, as opposed to the process of deep-seated economic intervention needed. It is symbolic of the “piece-a piece-a” line of action we have taken to rising crime levels across the region.
I celebrate and welcome the triple win as much as the other Caribbean person. But we now hold titles in the fast and easy forms of cricket –– the forms which are not associated with the stiff upper lip, sustained thought and mental determination. In the forms of cricket that still “matter” our fortunes are a lot less.
Perhaps, I am just an “old fogey” cricket purist. However, I am writing about this in the same space where I have just publicly accepted that in spite of our .3 or
.5 per cent projected growth (short form success), the Barbados dollar will have to be devalued (no long-term relevance).
Our region has a problem; and while we stop to revel in our win, let us keep some perspective. Can you see how I ended up here?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.