As the country is gearing up for the 50th anniversary of Independence with a host of celebrations planned, among which I understand that there is to be a price tag of $7 million (tell me it isn’t true!), I feel the need to stop and examine where we are today compared with 1966.
I was born in 1966 so, of course, I don’t know how things were, but there is no doubt that we have made significant strides in our development since then. Schools have been built, new highways constructed, a new airport was opened, hotels were built and a new source of revenue (primarily from the international business sector) was introduced.
These are very positive things and have contributed to Barbados’ high ranking on many of the various development reports produced by international organizations. At the same time, here we are 50 years after Independence facing a number of very significant (and regressive) issues.
A segment of the population cannot access running water and this has been going on for nearly a year. Our main hospital is in bad condition, barely has enough supplies to sustain proper patient care and has recently been subject to further cuts in the last budget.
We have more garbage than trucks and the current solution to that problem is ludicrous at every level. Our hotel room stock has declined significantly in the last few years. Our national debt had doubled since 2007 and was US $4.6 billion (yes that is a “b”) in 2015, which amounted to $16,193 per inhabitant.
Our credit rating also has been downgraded so much that, according to one of the jokes circulating on WhatsApp, not even Matthew (the recent hurricane) wanted to come to Barbados. Thank God!
Our election process is a farce, with both sides openly buying votes and noone seems to have any problem with it. The Westminster system is a joke and nothing gets stopped in Parliament because no member will go against their party and vote according to his or her conscience.
We don’t have a clue what our Government is doing unless papers “drop off the back of a truck” as happened in the case of the Cahill project, since the Government has taken a vow of silence. The Central Bank reported a 1.3 per cent growth in the economy for the first nine months of 2016, but people are still suffering.
The bottom line is that I’m not seeing much to celebrate right now, especially if $7 million is going to be spent on the celebration activities. I would be the first to celebrate if I heard that the money slated for the 50th anniversary was going to be put to better use, although that would literally be like a drop in the ocean.
I would dance in the streets if there was a freeze on taxes, especially with annoying names like social responsibility tax (sorry levy) and more effort was being made to stimulate the economy to provide much needed revenue.
By the way, social responsibility means not using money from NIS to fund other Government debt and projects. I would throw a party if investors started pouring money into the economy because they had confidence in the leadership of the country. I would be ecstatic if there was a strategic plan for the nation that would be implemented regardless of who created it and which party was in power.
I would be jubilant if leaders with vision would emerge and get involved in the politics of the country. I would rejoice if I knew that someone, somewhere has a plan for how Barbados will not only survive in the next 50 years, but will be way ahead of where we are today.
A Barbados where our debt is not greater than our GDP, one where we have departed from the archaic Westminster system and we are led by a coalition of men and women with the best brains in the country.
Leaders who don’t only have a five or ten-year plan to get their pension, but a plan to take the nation successfully into the next fifty years. Now that is something I could celebrate.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme and the Barbados Affiliate for the FundRiseHer Campaign. Contact her at email@example.com . Website www.donnaevery.com www.facebook.com/DonnaEvery1)