I do not write this letter as the President of the Barbados Investors and Policyholders Alliance (BIPA), but rather as a proud citizen of Barbados.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of this nation’s Independence, I pause to reflect on that momentous night on November 30, 1966 when the Barbados flag was officially raised for the first time. At just 9 years old, I could hardly be expected to fully grasp what it meant for Barbados to become independent from the United Kingdom. But I knew that something important was happening because of my father’s reaction and the fact that he had gone to the Garrison for this important event whilst the rest of the family remained at home listening intently to the live radio broadcast.
Now, 50 years later, I fully understand the significance of that day. It meant that we would be charting our own course in the world with our own people at the helm and the Lord as the people’s guide. I realize now that we were an inspired and proud people who believed that we had to play our part in the growth and development of our nation.
So, those of us who grew up ‘post-Independence’ did what we were supposed to do as part of the working class in the public and private sectors of Barbados. We played our part, we followed the rules, and we planned for our future and the future of our children by saving and investing in pension plans, life insurance policies and annuities, because that’s what we were supposed to do.
We had no doubts or fears about the safety of our hard-earned savings because there was a well-crafted Insurance Act and a Government appointed Office of the Supervisor of Insurance whose purpose was to monitor activity in the Insurance sector and protect us and our savings and investments from mismanagement or malfeasance.
And yet, as Barbados prepares to celebrate 50 years of Independence, many thousands of our citizens have little to rejoice about as they continue to wait to hear when they will start to receive the fruits of their labour which were set aside for their “old age”; savings and investments which were meant to ensure that they could live in relative comfort after having spent the majority of their lives contributing to the growth and development of Barbados; funds which would enable them to keep a well maintained roof over their heads, meet the ever rising costs of living and of health care, and pay for their children’s education to ensure the country would continue to benefit from the contributions of the next generation.
Fifty years later, some of us may be in times of plenty, but many of us are in serious times of need despite having sown the seeds from which our pride sprung. We have been and continue to be loyal sons and daughters of this nation, but we are making it known that as we write our names on history’s page, some of our expectations are not great because after nearly eight years, thousands of policyholders still await the outcome of the CLICO and BAICO debacles, not to mention many who have passed away during that time without the peace of mind that their dependents would be taken care of.
The owners and managers of these organizations, along with a government system that was supposed to oversee and protect the policyholders, failed as strict guardians of our financial heritage and through their negligence, have crafted our financial fate in a disastrous fashion that could never have been imagined and should never have been allowed to happen.
And so, sadly those of us loyal sons and daughters who are policyholders in these two companies do hereby make it known that even though these fields and hills are our very own, we continue to suffer at a time in our life when we should be celebrating.
Happy 50th Anniversary of Independence Barbados!