As we prepare to bid 2017 farewell and usher in the New Year, there will be some with great expectations and others with a less positive outlook for 2018 and beyond. Many will make resolutions that we will try to keep, but which can often be quickly forgotten as we make our path through another 12 months.
This tiny island, with its limited economy, limited sectors, limited infrastructure, limited development finances and limited scope for independent progress, can still do great things with increased focus, increased will, increased determination and increased respect for the 166 square miles that still provide us with a warm nesting place.
Barbadians ought to make individual resolutions to forsake nastiness in the New Year and to be kinder to their environment. Notwithstanding the discomfort of the ongoing waste seepage on the south coast, the problem is perhaps symbolic of a wider self-inflicted scourge that afflicts this country. There is no street or road in any of our 11 parishes, no reachable gully across the island that does not bear witness to our propensity for indiscriminate dumping of waste. There is a Styrofoam container, a cigarette box, a plastic bag, a decaying animal, an old refrigerator, or other form of garbage in a location somewhere in Barbados where it shouldn’t be. And it got there because of an unconscionable individual. The stench emanating from the south coast stretches metaphorically across the island. This gives cause for a year-end resolution.
One of the greatest institutions in Barbados and across the globe is the labour movement. And long may it survive in Barbados to champion the rights of workers. Labour can often fall prey to capital even with the presence of the labour movement. Thus one can only imagine – as experienced by our forefathers – the added hardship workers might endure in the absence of proper and effective representation. But there are two sides to this coin that must never be lost on the labour movement. Productivity must of necessity be as important to the labour movement as it is crucial to wielders of capital. No one wins in a situation where the labour movement fights for greater wages, salaries and conditions of employment and does not marry this battle to productivity. When capital flops, labour suffers. We have reportedly had significant instances over the years of absenteeism and both certified and uncertified sick leave in the private and public sector – the latter in particular. Small, vulnerable states like Barbados cannot afford such. This gives cause for a year-end resolution.
We often boast of our high literacy rate and the quality of our education system. And we have good reason to be proud of the upward mobility that education has provided for generations of Barbadians. But too many still fall through the cracks. Providing free education has been an expensive undertaking. Many have not availed themselves of the opportunities that have been provided at great cost to taxpayers. The introduction of fees at the university level brought great disquiet in many quarters. But what it has highlighted is that education is a major investment and whether attained by personal expenditure, grant or ‘freely’, such opportunities should never be wasted. There are too many intelligent young men and women who have obtained an education at significant cost to the state and their parents who are doing great injustice to themselves, family and country, by daily wasting away under a tree or in a shanty somewhere in all 11 parishes. This gives cause for a year-end resolution.
If ever there was a need for a revolution in Barbados, one is needed in agriculture. This sector has taken a persistent thrashing for more than two decades. We have had all sorts of stop-start initiatives inclusive of the land for the landless programme and the buy local exercise. We have had experimentation with cassava by-products and we have tried to diversify other sectors, inclusive of the sugar industry. Yet there is a sense that agriculture in Barbados plays second fiddle to everything else. Our food import bill shows no signs of decreasing and we often sate our appetites on imported items that would not be allowed on the tables in the countries from which they arrive. There is a need to pay closer attention to non-communicable diseases and the link they might have to what we off-load on our docks. This gives cause for a year-end resolution.
We often talk about our Africanity and black pride and act as though the perfunctory wearing of a dashiki, dreadlocks or the spouting of some empty rhetoric about our ancestors somehow connects us with our heritage. But we need to go beyond the banal. If we truly want to demonstrate pride in ourselves then black men must respect their women – not abuse them, they must respect their elders, they must support and nurture their children, they must reassume the role of protectors of their households. Black women must not assume that they cede their individuality, pride or status simultaneous to the assertion of a male’s role in their union. The idea of the ideal family structure has taken a beating as both genders have sought to grasp social opportunities and assert self. Frequently, our offspring pay the price for this battle of the sexes. This too gives cause for a year-end resolution.