Whatever we might think of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, or say about her, no one can reasonably accuse her of lacking creativity. Any attempt to convince us otherwise will be nihilistically futile.
For, having given birth to BERT – – seriously, this is how one of Ms Mottley’s economic advisors, the International Monetary Fund economist Dr Kevin Greenidge called her economic recovery programme yesterday – – the Prime Minister, along with her Barbados Labour Party administration, is drawing from a Barbadian icon, albeit spelt differently, to shore up and drive her economic recovery plan.
Ms Mottley told a Sandals sales conference last week the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation plan – yes, this is where BERT came from – would include Re Re, a play on international superstar Rihanna, whom we affectionately call RiRi.
“In those circumstances we have coined a programme which we feel will help us reach that destination of excellence. And being Bajans we call it the Re Re programme,” she said.
This is probably the best compliment that anyone could pay the original, authentic RiRi. However, outside of the fact that the Prime Minister’s Re Re will demand that we be niggards who perform acts of economic asceticism, Ms Mottley must know that playing with words will not get us to our desired destination.
We have come to expect politicians to be dilettantes, seemingly cultivating interests without any commitment, all in a bid to play the role of great, influential or progressive leaders acting in the interest of the plebeians, while impressing the gentry and the nobility.
This is not to suggest that the Prime Minister is putting on an act with regards to Re Re – Retooling and Empowering, Retraining and Enfranchising. Far from it!
But to link her austere passport to penury – at least in the short term – to Rihanna, is to misrepresent Re Re for what the real RiRi has achieved, and the means by which she has achieved it.
Rihanna has a net worth of US$260 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, a website which reports estimates of the total assets and financial activities of celebrities. As of 2016, she was Forbes‘ fourth-highest paid woman in music, earning more than US$70 million a year.
Currently she is building a lingerie and cosmetics empire. The world cannot have enough of her lingerie line Savage x Fenty or her Fenty Beauty. She was given an opportunity at age 16 and she is transitioning from music superstar to business mogul right before our very eyes.
No Barbadian in our history has had the global power and pull that Rihanna has, and it is all smartly done.
But let’s not forget that it began with her music, which, as part of the broader arts and entertainment industry, has failed to get the time of day from successive governments. If you doubt us, take a look at the list of this year’s scholarship and exhibition winners. Or last year’s. Or the year before.
Maybe it’s because we do not believe artistes and entertainers – those involved in the arts – are prestigious enough. Yet, we forget that arts and entertainment drives economies that are larger than ours.
Do our leaders truly appreciate the impact of Broadway on New York’s economy? Or the West End on London’s? Do they recognize the economic impact of Time Square, or Trafalgar Square, or Hollywood, Bollywood or Nollywood? Do they know what the shows, events, concerts, and the like do for Las Vegas, or what the Sydney Opera House does for the economy of Sydney, Australia?
The point is that there is great amount of good that arts and entertainment can do for our economy; a great deal of good we choose to ignore, or pay scant attention to.
Therefore, if she is going to invoke RiRi, Ms Mottley must RE-alize that arts and entertainment can be a lucrative industry for individuals as well as entire economies.
This is where she can be truly creative by repositioning our economy, not by the tired, tattered and frayed method of more taxes, but, among other steps, by making the bold move to empower and enfranchise our artistes and entertainers and to facilitate the growth of a vibrant arts and entertainment sector here.
Our economy cannot rely entirely on it, but it sure would help tremendously to get us out of the Prime Minister’s Re Re. After all, we much prefer the original.