Barbados continues its slide away from the normal practice of having elections every five years. Simply because one party thinks it to be the most expedient thing to secure a political victory, Barbados’ economic and social issues have been on pause. More specifically, because one man, who knows that he is first, but has seemingly overlooked that he is first among equals, we are all reduced to being unwilling participants in a real-time game of chess.
We are all focused on the actions of the Prime Minister of Barbados and I must admit with good reason, but there are other points that this period should make clear to us. This week, at the start of the sugar crop, it should be clear that one of the reasons the Prime Minister is able to prevail in the manner that he has, is simply because our national philosophy is weak.
It has come to light that the Barbados Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation (BADMC) is selling off the factory lands in its ownership. This means that Barbados is moving further away from its agrarian social democratic moorings. I could say here that I think this is the wrong direction for my country, but more important than my single view is the view of the collective about where we are going. I think that agriculture and social democracy have to remain pillars in the near future of Barbados. The course of independence which we took has not brought enough of us into wealth that we can now just remove the social service platform without destabilizing our society in a traumatic way.
So, while I would support the maintenance of our current system, those who are in favour of something else must also be encouraged to table their arguments and suggestions. It is because we do not have a clear sense of where we are going, that our current leadership has gotten a free pass at taking us anywhere. The tinkering that has been done with our economy over the last ten years does nothing to change the real position in Barbados. Without a clear national vision for our country, we will always be missing a game plan and potential way forward.
The second thing that our current situation teaches us is that our non-governmental actors are not robust and adequately performing their function of check and balance on the government. The economic challenges of the 1990s resulted in the formation of the social partnership. While the collaborative effort may have been needed to address the specific concerns of that period, they left our system of governance without the lobby, check and balances which are a part of the wider governance structure in a social democracy.
It has resulted in only the government’s weight and desires being of concern.
It is clear that if we are serious about moving Barbados forward these issues have to be prioritized as much as our economic concern. We have to ensure, both through the changing of our constitution and by active construction of a national philosophy, that nobody is easily able to take us on an indefinite float again.
People at all levels of society must become engaged in making Barbados the clean, orderly and hardworking society it used to be. Even as I note the value of order, we have to also ensure a robust non- governmental sector so that various aspects of our society, sports, youth and other interest groups can fight for the changes needed for them to realize their maximal potential.
(Marsha Hinds is public relations officer of the National Organization of Women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)