As Barbadians prepare to celebrate this island’s 52nd year of Independence, there is much to be grateful for.
The past decade has been a trying one for the average Barbadian, businesses and Government alike. While there has hardly been a silver lining amid the billowing dark clouds, a glimpse back to the years prior to 1966 reveal just how much progress has been made in our small, still strong and sceptred isle.
Water and electricity are available in almost every household; pit toilets are mostly unheard of; the country’s literacy rate still remains as one of the highest in the world and we have the greatest cricketer the world has ever seen, Sir Garfield Sobers, a post-Independence Olympic medalist and a World Champion in Obadele Thompson and Ryan Brathwaite respectively.
It is always important to remember that as hard and as tough as things may seem, it is still a paradise when compared to a great many countries near and far.
Even the current economic crisis, as bad as it is, could be worse.
Things are even less rosy right now for the 1,500 public servants who have been retrenched by Government, but even the jobless would be hard-pressed to imagine a softer cushion to land on in most developing and some developed ones.
We are still the ‘Gem of the Caribbean Sea’ – even if with a few scratches and dents.
The sacrifices which were made by our forefathers and legends, from Samuel Jackman Prescod to Clement Payne, Bussa to Errol Barrow, Grantley Adams to Tom Adams, and from father and son to mother and daughter, have allowed Barbadians of every hue, class and creed to lead a comfortable way of life.
The serenity of our island stretches from coast to coast; crime is a concern but we do not live in constant fear of our lives.
Indeed there is much to be thankful for.
But as much as we use this time to express our gratitude, Independence also offers us a chance to think about where we need to go.
Mia Mottley’s recent speech at the United Nations was a clarion call for investing in sustainable solutions to environmental and climate concerns peculiar to small island states like Barbados. Aside from attracting investment in tourism and offshore sectors, what are we doing to promote investment in climate-smart technologies in the construction and maintenance of our homes, schools and offices, and climate-smart means of farming to feed ourselves?
Beyond seeing the green in the blue economy, are we looking to the sea for viable solutions to power our nation? Surely, the financial sting of global gas prices, if nothing else, demands it.
And, what potential lies in the fields and hills of – not Scotland – but the Scotland District to feed us and our children, and their children?
And as we build on 52 years of nationhood, we must do so in a way that ensures we are leaving no one behind.
That means making Barbados an accessible country, namely for people who are living with disabilities. Gone should be the days that someone using a wheelchair is unable to enter into businesses and public buildings because they are not accommodated. Our children in all secondary schools — public and private — should be learning sign language and braille.
Inclusion must also mean targeted, sustained and supported efforts at listening to, and learning from, our youth. How can the dust be settled at Grantley Adams Memorial if students were not consulted? How can their issues be addressed if they are not given a chance to be heard? Adults have missed a golden opportunity to show children not only that they care, but also that ‘nothing about us without us’ also pertains to them. Let’s hope more chances are not missed.
Finally, leaving no one behind encourages us to create policies with those most in need of government intervention: the poor, the very young and the elderly. Governance at 52 can no longer mean ‘corn beef and biscuits’ or even iPads and iPhones for votes either. We urge our politicians to sit with their people, and be invested in their lives. Celebrate their successes, and engage with organizers and community leaders at the grassroots to seek out the ways to encourage transformation at the micro-level.
There truly is nothing like this rock. Let’s treasure the beauty, might and majesty on this tiny, teeming land, and remain committed to making it shine even brighter, whether in good times or in bad, in plenty and in time of need.