Barbados has to “up its game” as a competitor on the world stage, the Prime Minister asserted today while pledging to engage in dialogue at all levels and accept inputs from all citizens.
But in giving Barbadians an assurance that her 20-month-old administration was dedicated to improvements at the latest event in the year-long We Gatherin’ initiative, she said the task ahead would not be easy.
Mottley told a gathering in St Lucy on Wednesday night: “As Bajans would tell you, ‘for my one part’, I believe that we have to up our game.
“And we have to up our game and I say so not in a disrespectful way, but we have to recall there are others doing much of what we do and people have choices.
“We have to up our game first for ourselves and then for those who want to do business or who want to interact with us at different levels.”
She was speaking at the St Lucy Parish Rectory during the first in a series of ideas fora, which forms part of the We Gatherin’ 2020 celebrations. The forum is designed to give Barbadians an opportunity to share their ideas with the Prime Minister on how to transform the island.
Recalling that her administration’s first meeting after coming to office in May 2018 was with the Social Partnership, Mottley said it was by talking with each other that authorities were able to “build a consensus for movement”.
While giving the assurance that she was listening to comments made by individuals “in terms of how to position and where to position what we have to do in this nation”, Mottley insisted that the task ahead was a relay and not a sprint.
She declared that having saved the Barbados dollar from devaluation, the next mission was to determine “how do we become world-class, how do we up our game”.
She told the rectory’s audience: “This country must pause and begin to understand that we coasted for too long in the last two decades and that we have to dig deep down now to put in the early work for the next 50 years.
“And at the very least, we must be prepared to stay the course if we are going to change the reality and experiences of these persons.”
Stating that the time for dialogue was never over, Mottley said people should not only listen to what they wanted to hear, like or are familiar with, but take into account that there were people with different views and practices.
Mottley insisted that once dialogue has taken place “then we can define the mission of where we want to go”.
She said: “Why this conversation? Because we have to open the windows to the nation and air the house of Barbados, and we will do so not just by hearing the traditional voices of leadership of this country in the Parliament, the church, private sector and the unions, but allowing all voices to start to contend.”
The Barbados Labour Party leader said while she was aware of the positives that were taking place in the country, she was not oblivious to the gaps that needed to be bridged “in the house, the school or church”, adding that there were still many people who were not aware of “a time and place for things”.
Pointing out that the media also had a role to play, Mottley said her administration would be introducing two public education courses this year, teaching people about “time and place” and “how to”.
She explained: “It may well teach people how to get a mortgage; how to play and be a deejay, how to take care of my responsibilities as a mother with children that may be disadvantaged; how to do so many different things that people may not necessarily know on their own, but which the country needs to share the knowledge in order to empower people “
Financial literacy clinics were also promised to help people to learn informally about how best to invest and manage their finances.
She also expressed her wish for the reintroduction of a “stronger” Barbados Cricket League (BCL) – the long-time rural crucible of the game – saying it was an opportunity for young people to interact with and learn from the older generation.
During the ideas forum, Captain of the West Indies cricket team Jason Holder, called for unity, pointing out that there would be hardship while turning things around for the country, but it would require perseverance.
He also recommended that authorities get full buy-in from the population for programmes and projects.
“With the interaction and buy-in we can have that common consensus and we can generally move forward as a country,” said Holder, adding that in some instances Government may be required to make a “tough call” without full consensus.
Other residents including popular deejay Andre Puffy Parris, shared their views, calling for improvements in several areas including culinary experiences, sports opportunities, counselling, food production, education and scientific research.