With 26 murders recorded here so far this year, President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Eddy Abed has raised concern about the frequency and brazenness of crime, which he said was now sweeping every parish in an unprecedented fashion.
“Citizens are fearful of attending events where there may be large crowds, and we’ve even heard that there are persons planning their daily chores so as to ensure they are back in their wrought iron fortified homes by sunset,” he said in an address to the BCCI’s monthly luncheon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre yesterday.
He also raised concern about the impact of the crime situation on the bread-and-butter tourism industry saying, “surely if crime is affecting the way of life of our own citizens and residents, then it will only be a matter of time before our visitors will be affected [and] what would have taken decades to build could be destroyed in months”.
The Chamber president is therefore recommending that secondary school leavers who are not attending tertiary level institutions or are unable to find employment, be subjected to mandatory youth service training for two years.
“Without question the devil finds mischief for idle hands. For this reason, the youth should not end up on the blocks while they wait for employment or figure out what they want to do in life,” he said, adding that “it is the responsibility for parents, guardians and the state, to provide direction and guidance and by extension reasonable quality of life we all desire.”
His comments came in the wake of an appeal made last weekend by a senior police officer for the youth of the island to put down the guns.
Superintendent in the Southern Division Eucklyn Thompson was speaking at the relaunch of the Plumgrove Neighbourhood Watch when he implored the youth to find alternative methods to resolve their disputes.
“I want to … implore our youngsters and all those engaged in violent crimes including murder, endangerment of life, serious bodily harm via the use of guns and other dangerous weapons to find alternative and more viable means to settle your differences,” Thompson said at the time while revealing that of the 26 murders so far this year, 16 had occurred in the southern division.
The senior police officer also disclosed that 51 young people had been charged in that division with serious offences such as aggravated burglary, theft, gun related crimes, illegal drugs and rape.
“There is a need for anger management and problem solving and conflict resolution skills and techniques to deal with the various types of disputes occurring amongst our younger population,” Thompson said while encouraging the youth to practise forgiveness and temperance.
With 86 cases of gun related crimes, 24 cases of serious bodily harm and 440 cases of illegal drugs occurring in the southern communities this year, Thompson urged the residents of the Plumgrove Christ Church community to be mindful of the changing face of mortality and he called for community leaders and concerned citizens to set the correct tone, especially young people.
“Too many of us in this society are prepared to allow evil to masquerade as good which is not only undesirable but an abomination in the sight of God,” Thompson contended, adding that “there is a need for seniors, parents, leaders in every sphere of endeavour – be it Government, the public and private sectors, church and other non-governmental organizations – to set the tone for good governance by setting forth examples for morality, decency, acts of kindness, love, care, goodness, praiseworthiness and quality service …. it ought to be the interest of every Barbadian to be about ensuring the peace, stability, growth and viability of our beloved homeland”.
In this same vain, Abed appealed to the business community to play its part in stemming crime by helping to create more employment opportunities for the youth.
In his wide-ranging address, the Chamber president also pleaded with Barbados and the rest of the region to either implement and enforce strict national building codes or make it mandatory for homeowners to insure their properties.
His call came in response to the recent passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which caused widespread devastation in Barbuda and Dominica in particular, where it is estimated that only about 25 per cent of the properties were insured.
Abed warned that though Barbados was spared the worst of the two powerful storms and has not been directly hit by a major hurricane in over 60 years, it may not be so lucky in the future.
“Surely when the average homeowner does not insure his property it is incumbent on regional governments to ensure that the quality of construction meets a mandated building code. Equally if there is not an enforced building code then there should be a national requirement that all properties are to be insured so as to mitigate the downside risks when major hurricane strike,” Abed said, while stressing the need for decisive action to be taken to mitigate against natural disasters which were “by and large uncontrolled”, but stood to affect vital industries, such as tourism.
The businessman also called for “a reboot” of the ease of doing business in the Caribbean, saying the reluctance of companies to venture out of their comfort zones and lack of competitiveness “have done us an injustice”. He also described the current governance models as “archaic” and in need of modernization “to represent the needs of citizens in the 21 century”.