How do you rewrite the future of Beautiful Barbados? Clearly, it depends on who you ask.
Recently, when Prime Minister Freundel Stuart delivered the 9th Annual Errol Barrow Memorial Lecture at the Markham Convention Centre in Toronto, Canada, his focus – perhaps understandably – was the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Independence of Barbados.
For his context, Stuart emphasized three R’s – RENEW, RECLAIM, and REJECT – the lens which he believes every Barbadian should use as they decide the best way forward for the country.
He said: “We have not been perfect. No one is ever perfect. Perfection is the exclusive preserve of the Almighty. Independence is not an end. It is a means to an end. We have to be confident enough to be self- critical and self – correcting . . . Independence was never intended to be an end in itself. Independence was always a means towards nationhood. This means that the intention of Independence was to develop and transform the economy. And that is what Barbados did over the last fifty years.”
Phil Broome, a retired banker, who was one of the nearly 500 persons attending the event, afterwards said: “Stuart’s speech was very interesting. I agree with him that the Government has to review and leverage the strengths of education and tourism. To look at health from a preventative method is brilliant. “
Admittedly, Stuart spoke to many ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) faithful – and several others; yet he also offered very broad perspectives on Canada-Barbados relations, crime, education, renewable energy and violence. Indeed, he spoke in terms of units of fifty years of history and time, and was certain that Barbados can be assured of a very good and confident future. At one point in time, the PM evoked much laughter when he spoke of the next 50 years in this way:
“We have invested very much in our human capital. And, when Barbados speaks, the international community stops and listens because they take Barbadians seriously. And long may this continue to be so. And, as long as I have anything to do with it . . . and, I shall be around for the next two elections . . . , I intend to continue these investments in education and health.”
At one point, Stuart spoke philosophically about education: “I do not belong to the school of thought that believes that we educate people for the job market. I was glad that when I was at school, no one told me that foolishness. When you educate a human being, you do not educate them for work, you educate them to be a good family man; you educate them to be a good community person; you educate them to be a sound mind guided by a solid set of core values; you educated them to be a good parent and to enjoy a good life and just not just to be worker.”
Mr Stuart also said that health is an area in need of self-correction, pointing to the high level of non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs) among Barbadians. These diseases are lifestyle-related and have been eating away at the fabric of Barbados and other Caribbean societies.
He revealed part of his recent chat with cardiologist, Professor Sir Trevor Hassell, chairman of the National Commission on NCDs.
“Professor Hassell said to me ‘Prime Minister, if I may, I would like to explain the seriousness of the problem. Let me put it to you in this way. Out of every dollar you put in health care in Barbados, seventy cents of it is spent on non-communicable diseases. Or anytime, you see a group of ten Barbadians standing or sitting, seven of them are suffering from non-communicable diseases . . . . And, what we are trying to do is to sensitize Barbadians to the need to change their lifestyles, to become more sophisticated in our habits and lifestyles, and stop the march towards non communicable diseases. So there are things that we have to do.”
Prime Minister Stuart was accompanied on the trip by Minister of Education, Ronald Jones; Minister of Labour, Senator Dr Hon. Esther Byer-Suckoo and George Pilgrim, General Secretary of the DLP.
Stuart also participated in a town meeting at Koffler House at the University of Toronto. The Broken Trident award was given to Hugh Graham for his contribution to the DLP Barbados Canada.