A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,
and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
Proverbs 22 Vs 1
From way back in the 17th century when sugar was king, Barbados was a brand. It made the best sugar and the best rum. Even the first president of the United States visited in 1751. In the 1960’s with the filming of Island is the Sun, the brand Barbados was romanticized. It became the most desirable honeymoon spot and known as a place of beauty that many have on their list of places to visit. Nowadays, it is known as an exclusive tourist destination for jet setting travellers, especially from the United Kingdom, including none other than Simon Cowell. The Merry Men have immortalized the name of our island in song, “ Beautiful, beautiful Barbados, gem of Caribbean Sea…” The mixture of all of these; the historical, romanticism, beauty and allure have made the island a well-defined brand.
The island also benefited from a reputation of having a stable democratic Government. It became a leader in the regional economic grouping CARICOM. Long before Rihanna became a sensation, Barbados was a brand, having established a good name and reputation for itself abroad. Now this all seems to have changed as the island has gone from being the brightest jewel in the English Crown to, in the last ten years a struggling economy, with mis-management at its epitome.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and all of his ministers are to be squarely blamed for the economic situation that compounds any growth on the island.
Chris Sinckler as Minister of Finance has been responsible for no less than 21 downgrades in the country’s credit ratings. He has made it difficult for the country to get low interest bearing loans in its name. He has damaged the good name of Barbados.
In his defence of Mr Sinckler, the Prime Minister provided a false narrative that was not based on any economics principles but appealed to the emotions of Barbadians. He said the rating agencies could not devalue Barbadians.
On December 3, 2017, it was reported that the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Stephen Lashley had applied for a grant $100,000, of which approximately $94,000 was to pay contractors. UNESCO rejected the application and the grant was denied. Being denied a grant is not uncommon. However, Lashley’s actions leads one to question how he could have been awarded a national honour, and why the Prime Minister did not break his silence on the matter or if he would be willing to invite the media to be present when he raises this issue with Mr Lashley.
About two weeks ago it was also publicized that Barbados has been placed on the blacklist of countries conducting international business by the European Union (EU). The Minister of Industry and International Business Donville Inniss said during a press conference that he was shocked that this had occurred. However, it was not the first time that the country was blacklisted under his watch. It previously occurred in 2015. Shame on him! He had two years to ensure that the requisite legislation had been put in place and enforced. The fact that it has happened again speaks to his incompetence to address the issues facing the ministry for which he has responsibility. He too is responsible for the destruction of the Barbados Brand.
In addition to the above, the tourism product has been put at risk on the south coast. A sewage crisis has been unfolding for over a year. The first response by the Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and the Minister of Health John Boyce was to pull a publicity stunt of jumping in the sea instead of adequately addressing the problem. However, the failure of both them to adequately correct this problem in a timely matter has a negative effect on the Brand Barbados enough to threaten the existence of the tourism product.
With the secrecy that surrounds the sale of the Hilton Hotel, one wonders on whose advice and on whose judgment, was the action taken to devalue the value of this piece of real estate so closely associated with the brand. Nike will never devalue its shoes; or Roberto Cavalli devalue the prices of his dresses. One can go on and on regarding the major brands. Therefore, why should the price of the Hilton Hotel be sold way under value when there are even some houses on the West Coast of Barbados that are worth $80 million? None of the aforementioned brands are as old as the Barbados Brand and they would certainly not consider selling off a part of their image that was known for performing well for the proverbial “mess of pottage”. It would only be considered self-destruction. To date the Prime Minister has not said a word about the sale of the Hilton Hotel.
These are the types of ministers that the Prime Minister has raised. Without admonishing or firing them when they erred instead he has stood in their defence as in the criminal case with the Speaker of the House, trivialized the impact of their actions as he did with the information of the island’s 20th downgrade, or said nothing.
However, like a sick patient taking a combination of pills that will have life threatening effects on the body so too is the current status of Barbados. The cash strapped Government is in a serious bind causing it to undertake the selling of the Hilton hotel. There is a stench of desperation approaching that the island’s economy is on the verge of collapsing and the actions of the ministers are accelerating the collapse. One wonders if the Prime Minister really understands what is at stake?