Was the expenditure to celebrate Barbados’ 50th anniversary of Independence worth it? Emphatically, we say, yes it was.
It is sad that the issue of celebrating such a milestone was politicized from the outset. The Opposition Barbados Labour Party predictably mouthed their protestations and these were mimicked by many party supporters via social and traditional media, as well as on the streets. Needless to say, there would have been some who objected with no political attachment as their spur.
But there was equally vociferous and sizable public support expressed for Government’s plans to make the year 2016 a memorable, celebratory one. If the attendance and participation of Barbadians in most, if not all, of the Government-initiated events can be used as a gauge, then there were more “ayes” than “nays” to the celebrations.
People pointed to water woes suffered by persons living in the north of the island. They also referenced the difficulties of the Sanitation Service Authority to ensure a consistent, reliable collection of garbage as well as the poor condition of some of our roads, as among the areas that should have been prioritized for alleviation, ahead of expenditure on the Independence celebrations. But truth be told, if one looks around Barbados long enough, one may find an area of prudent public spending that appears wasteful when matched against something else that has been placed on the backburner.
The point is that Barbados’ attainment of 50 years of nationhood was a special, once-in-a-lifetime occasion that necessitated being treated with the pomp, pageantry and pecuniary outlay that it attracted. We do not believe that it is a case of history repeating itself where 50 years ago there were political objections to National Hero Errol Barrow seeking Independence from Great Britain, but those who would outwardly embrace Independence but yet criticize celebration of a half-century of self-governance, somehow ring rather hollow.
We are told that the Independence celebration expenditure over the past 12 months was approximately BDS$7 million. This is a far cry from the $200 million dumped in Greenland, or the $300 million spent on the Gems of Barbados project, which have brought little or no benefit to Barbados and which have probably disappeared from the consciousness of many Barbadians with the lapse of time. Hence, the protestations of the Opposition could, in the words of the country’s political leader, be punished with laughter.
The precise numbers are not yet in but we are told that a significant number of Barbadians returned home specifically for the last lap of the celebrations. The increased number of public events would have had the spin-off commercial benefits. That is one area of examination. But what about the intangibles?
A country’s nationhood is nothing to take for granted. And at a time of declining morals, a sense of apathy in several sections of our communities and often a politically promoted sense of hopelessness, to remind Barbadians about their pride and industry, to reenergize them towards the continued pursuit of their goals and to create a spirit of unity through celebration, are worth more than $7 million.
But what happens now, the days after the celebrations, is the critical factor.
Do we continue to moan and groan and look to politicians as our saviours? Or do we find creative ways to assist ourselves as well as those with whom we celebrated these past eleven months, to move forward to better circumstances? Do we continue to wear patriotism on our sleeves and on our cars, but still continue to abuse our women and children, as well as neglect and exploit our elderly? Do we still utilize and benefit from social amenities and services but refuse to pay or dodge our taxes? Do we continue to preach black awareness and brotherhood but practise wanton gun violence on each other? Do we bemoan our joblessness but spend significant time marooned under trees and on blocks across the island turning idleness into an art form? Do we boast of the beauty of our country but then desecrate it with our filthy treatment of its environment?
November 2016 has been a grand occasion, arguably the most significant since 1966. Many of us will not be around in 2066 when the island celebrates its Independence centenary. Let’s hope that the positive lessons inculcated since the lowering of the Union Jack are passed on and improved upon by our heirs and that they too will celebrate our nationhood even if for a few dollars more.