The Independence generation, of which I am a member, has spectacularly failed the leadership test of our country. Today we are producing a population of young people who are from a country that has no specific aims or place in the world, it could be considered hopeless. It is being manifested in the crudest way through our youth, who see no real future for themselves and resort to all kinds of deviant, dangerous and sometimes deadly behaviour.
Deviance and defiance among the youth is not a new phenomenon; it is as old as time and is a given. However, what is new is how widespread it is becoming. We have yet to make the necessary connection between the direction of the whole to the direction of the individual. Let us not be quick to distance ourselves and point fingers and ridicule the youth because we do that at our own peril and become further victims of our own hypocritical mis-diagnosis.
Don’t blame them! They are only a reflection of a far wider group. Examine the same youth at a different point of exposure on that spectrum, the ones with a glimmer of hope, the ones who have careers in mind; they are only patiently waiting to jump off and get on the next plane and don’t even look back. They want to go farther afield to seek the chance to discover themselves and grow into their aspirations. Otherwise they would suffer from the same lack of purpose.
I have long decided that I don’t want to get into politics but I can’t rid myself of the desire to have a vision for my country. The desire to be a part of the solution, is driving me more than that desire to be silent and leave it to others. I have some ideas for Barbados which are not incremental fixes; they involve fundamental changes to our way of life. They need commitment and strong leadership to execute.
My fear is that we are on the verge of another small “w” for our country. We will have an election and we will have a small victory for some party but it could potentially be a big “L” for the country if we are not discussing big ideas and looking to make fundamental changes to project Barbados. My recommendations are related to transportation, tourism, health – bio medical development, education, arts and culture and economic development.
Interestingly, they are all inter-connected which is fundamental to their strategic survival. This project Barbados needs a national strategy and national vision.
The project, Barbados – vision 2030, is built fundamentally on an economy that provides the best health care to all ages and becomes a health care destination that produces health care products from raw material grown here and a healthy lifestyle that is lived and supported by Government initiatives. This is a vision with a singular focus that we all as a country will be striving to attain.
Now I need to prepare you for some fundamental shifts in how we will be living but at the same time creating a different economy that produces jobs throughout the value chain of product Barbados – “The world’s healthiest destination to live, work, vacation and recuperate”.
Historically, Barbados was at the beginning of the value chain. We produced top quality sugar cane, first under slavery and then as a colony but we were a strong link in the cycle; we were production. All we need to do now is to shift our sights further up the chain and become as good as we were at production. Let’s now be the end of the chain, the service aspect of the value chain – health service. We can own this space. Were it up to me, this is what we would do.
The first thing we will do is revamp the education system that has served us well, starting initially with the curriculum. If we are going to be a tourism destination, foreign languages cannot be taught as they are, like if we are all preparing to be professors of French and Spanish. Every primary school student will be conversant in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and French. This will permeate through to secondary school. We will be equipping our workforce to speak to our new customers from the rest of the world. Curriculum will be geared to opportunities for studying bushes, herbs, and the food we grow. The curriculum will focus on healthy bodies and healthy minds.
The focus will be developing a citizen that is ready to create jobs and businesses for an economy that serves the health needs of the world. We will not give up the best parts of our system; we will still have our healthy dose of Mathematics and English. We are not throwing out the baby with the bath water but we are definitely going to use some different soap.
Transportation– Barbados will become less reliant on cars and we will have a more reliable public transportation system which is private sector led. In addition to the existing terminals, two terminals will be built in the central south of the country near the Belle and central north of the country, for example, Apes Hill/Lancaster. Therefore, a public service would not run from Bridgetown to Sam Lords or Bridgetown to Pie Corner but we would have all short routes and persons would take the connecting transportation at the respective terminals. This transportation will not be fossil fuel-driven but will be solar-powered. It could be buses as we know them or it could evolve to some type of mass rail transport.
However, the more important aspect of the transportation policy is that bicycle lanes will be added to the road network and government incentives will be put in place to encourage riding. Children will ride to school, adults will ride to work or ride to the nearest transportation terminal to catch their public transport.
This policy is a significant change for our country that will not only reduce our drain of scarce foreign exchange but will improve our health.
Critical to this policy is that Barbados will also become a bicycle producing country. We would not be importing bicycles, we will be making them. This is the type of thought process that we should be pursuing actively. There is no magic in this. It happens in Europe today but we have a far better environment in which to make this work for us especially with the 2030 vision. This country cannot afford incremental thinking at this time if it is to make a quantum leap into reforming its economic fortunes. Remember, the vision is to be the healthiest country in the world.
Health care – Let’s get at the core of the discussion and the core to the entire new economy. We will grow moringa, noni, manchineel, mandarin, mustard and other agricultural products. We will grow the best species of these crops, we will study them and all the other natural herbs we have access to. We will make medicines from them, we will get smart and get ourselves in the value chain of healthy products and their production in Barbados.
Along with that, we will build a new health care facility that replaces our main hospital and we will sell the skills of our health care providers across the world. We will encourage Air BnB and respite centres and we will develop skills for the treatment of and caring for Alzheimer’s patients and become the capital of the world for recuperation and palliative care. This country will get de-bushed and be kept cleaned and strong legal consequences will be introduced for littering – this is not a minor point.
From a governance perspective, we will be making government more efficient with fewer ministers overseeing synergistic ministries. We have discussed three (3) so far and there will be only four more — Sports, Arts and Culture, Business/Government Facilitation, Office of the Attorney General Office and Finance. Government is too big and needs to be decentralized. MPs will focus on service to their constituents using the arms of government to assist.
Arts and Culture – Barbados has a real opportunity to be a factory for the art and music industry for the world. The evidence is in Nicholas Brancker, Arturo Tappin, Rihanna, Dwayne Antrobus, Melvin Aleck and many others who produce and make music for international recording artistes. This will be one of the key areas for growth and will continue to attract government support and provide an outlet for the creative talents of our youth. It will also be part of the economic landscape that cares for the health of the world through the arts. The outlets here for the nation are wide and varied; it is in production, staging, sound, lighting, film, promotion, artistes’ management. We are now only scratching the surface of the skills that our people can bring to the region first and then the world in this area.
Business and Government Facilitation – This will be one of the most significant areas of focus for the vision 2030 government. For those who were around and remember the 2007 World Cup model, you will recall that it was a very well-designed and executed project. It demonstrated high levels of bureaucracy-busting, critical permanent secretaries sat around the table to make decisions happen – customs, immigration, health etc. to get the cricketers and patrons around the Caribbean seamlessly.
We need this type of approach and we need to be deliberative with it. This arm of government will be set up to ensure the levers of government that facilitate business functioning will be housed under one umbrella with the expressed goals of good governance and efficient execution. It would be run similar to a privately-run corporation. We have some of the brightest minds of our country in the Civil Service and they have served this country well over the years. We will be utilizing the best of those driven, progressive individuals to reflect the value and import of this arm of government to ensure its success.
The final piece of this puzzle is how we run the finances – the planning, the budgeting, the spending, the allocation and the international lobbying. Project Barbados – Vision 2030 is not starting in a vacuum and we will have lots of work to do to get to this goal but at least we have a goal. All of the above requires strong leadership and commitment to drive it through and none more so than the financial leadership. I propose a select team of six persons from our community with project Barbados as their goal. It is important that these individuals are not serving a political interest, nor the interests of one or two corporates but have the interest of executing on the vision along with the leader of the country.
This is way too long to be an article but way too short to explain the significance of what needs to happen next in our country Barbados. Barbados is small enough to design the path that it wants to take in this world. It has been blessed with leadership and governments over the past 50 years that have served it well. Stable government. We are blessed to have had leadership that had the vision of free education and we have benefitted from that to produce one of the most advanced societies in the world. Good leadership. We have a natural environment that is the envy of most, we have flat topography, a good road network, excellent communication systems, sunshine all year round, good ports of entry. We have a canvass that is not empty but that is richly populated with lots of advantages. Great infrastructure.
What we need now is not to be complacent, not to be incremental, not to settle but to be strategic and seize the opportunity that is presented. Let’s not waste this crisis. Let us use this space in our development to shoot for that one single idea, that vision and let’s make a quantum leap for Barbados. Visions 2030 and beyond. Let’s give our young people hope – something to strive for and let’s make it big.
Barbados – “The world’s healthiest destination to live, work, vacation and recuperate”.