Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Jerome Walcott addressed an audience of some 800 Barbadian nationals at the Kensington Town Hall, London on Saturday June 8.
The Prime Minister said she had not visited London for ten years and was overwhelmed with emotion seeing so many Barbadians gathered for the evening’s event. She said her experience of London in the early part of her life had helped to define her character.
Barbadians travelled from as far afield as Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester, Coventry and Milton Keynes to join the audience that included Sir Garfield Sobers and his partner Ms Jackie White, Sir Charles Williams, Sir Elliot and Lady Mottley and the recently elected Master of Jesus College, Cambridge University Ms Sonita Alleyne.
The audience listened in rapt attention as the Prime Minister delivered her speech in a sombre and conversational tone. She outlined her plans and hopes to bring Barbados back to its earlier days of prosperity after the last ten wasted years of neglect and inertia.
In looking at the parlous state of the country’s finances, Mottley said that her Government fully intends to reduce the country’s debt to income ratio from the inherited 180 per cent to 60 per cent by the early 2030s. She pointed out that it has already been reduced to 137 per cent after one year. She insisted that there will be no borrowing in the immediate future and said that immediate future projects will be financed mainly by private sector investment and partnership.
Mottley gave a brief insight into some of the projects which currently occupy her planning regarding the development of the island. She said the modernisation of the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) was necessary. The GAIA has not been renovated since the 1970s and the Prime Minister said she hoped there would be opportunities for in-transit passengers to purchase merchandise in the way they can at other international terminals. In short, she said she would like to create facilities like a shopping mall.
Staying with general matters related to tourism, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Hilton Hotel would not be sold. She said she would seek a shareholding investment of BBD $40 million and in a statement not directly related to the Hilton project, she announced that Barbadians will be able to hold foreign currency accounts from July.
The speech continued in a passionate and visionary tone as she announced that she was unhappy with the state of some housing in the island. To this end, she said a land bank will be acquired so that improved housing for the residents of Lower Burney, Pine and Wildey housing areas can be developed.
Turning to topics which appeared close to the Prime Minister’s heart, she said there needs to be a review of education and healthcare standards. She proposed that Barbados should be used as a medical hub to take advantage of its ideal climatic conditions and she called for help from the UK to provide assistance in the operation of the hospital.
Barbadians had come to get a first-hand report on all important matters that currently occupy the Government in Barbados. However, they are also concerned about issues that affect them in the UK. The matter of citizenship for children and grandchildren is top of the list and the Prime Minister promised that there will be a review of the conditions that currently speak to the matter.
The Prime Minister used the opportunity to praise the achievements of Barbadians who, over the years, have made Barbados a proud country. She singled out the cases of Sir Garfield Sobers and Rihanna who she said had brought fame and distinction to the island. She added that she would promote the case for Rihanna to be made a living legend and also, following discussion with her family, for a Rihanna Museum to be erected in Westbury Road.
In closing, the Prime Minister said her mission for Barbados is that those who share the burden should share the bounty.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Walcott opened the proceedings with a brief report. He reminded his audience of the position Barbados was in one year ago and warned that it will be sometime before the country is fully back on its feet. He called on all Barbadians to play a part in putting the country again on a firm footing and made a special appeal for assistance, particularly in the field of nursing.
The Prime Minister promised to visit Birmingham and Manchester in the future.
Vincent ‘Boo’ Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser.
He is passionate about the development of his island home and disapora.