Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Patrick Gittens
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles just cannot help sounding massively uninformed sometimes. He seems clueless as to what previous Governments did to combat NCDs.
The 2008-2013 DLP administration banned smoking in public places, removed soft-drink dispensing machines from public health facilities or demanded that concessionaires supply healthier options.
They introduced a National Exercise Program to encourage Bajans to lead more active lifestyles, they increased and enhanced early diagnosis and treatment of potential/NCD patients at the polyclinics and other primary healthcare facilities.
They worked with the Ministry of Education to realign the school meals programs for healthier options, they had our dieticians/nutritionists work with kids on healthier food consumption so that they in turn could educate their parents.
They improved diagnosis and treatment programs at the QEH for NCDs, they introduced blood pressure monitors to barber shops so that men could check their BP as they waited for haircuts, they adjusted taxes on sugary products upwards and worked with manufacturers and importers to provide healthier options for citizens, and so much more.
So Sir Hilary Beckles would get away with his grossly unsubstantiated statements because no one in the media or in public life ever seeks to debunk or expose his statements.
Secondly, if all the Mia Mottley adminsitration has done to combat diabetes is to raise taxes on some sugary products and they get this level of accolades, then imagine if they had done something novel and really impactful.
It is amazing how Barbados’ public debate on supposedly serious issues has been reduced to mediocrity and a clamour to see who can sing the Government’s praises the loudest.
Please Sir Hilary, tell us how cancelling all sugar plantations and turning them into non-sugar production helps the cause? For many years Barbados has been importing raw sugar to supplement its needs and most of the sugary products we consume are actually imported.
Growing cabbages instead of sugar cane does not address this issue. Sir Hilary really needs to look at what Barbados actually does with most of the raw sugar it produces.
The Government we so celebrate is the same one that encourages increased production of rum.
Last time I checked rum is not a by-product of carrots, cabbages, onions or sweet-peppers. It is one of Barbados’ main products that is heavily consumed locally and earns foreign exchange.
It is made from molasses which comes from sugar. What agricultural product is Sir Hilary et al consuming that could have them ignore this fact? Would they now call for a ban on the consumption of alcohol, especially rum or increased taxes thereon? Furthermore, is Sir Hilary aware of the exorbitant and prohibitive cost of farming in Barbados? He really believes that his idea makes economic, political or cultural sense? Why does he believe that as a society we can eliminate every symbol of slavery and oppression by the white man? Sure, I would like to see Barbados producing more of what it consumes.
Sure, I would like to see our tourism sector using more local foods. No one can argue with that. But to eliminate all sugar lands in short order is but a pipe dream and does nothing to address the issue of NCDs.
These noise makers should reflect on the fact that in the heyday of slavery our black ancestors did not face these NCD issues perhaps because they toiled hard and long hours.
They were physically active and they cooked and ate healthy foods. Jump forward to today and note that the descendants are now armed, not with a hoe and a sickle, but a UWI degree, and sit all day long in a chair behind a desk in an airconditioned office on a computer.
The most exercise they get is the bathroom breaks or the walk down the corridor to the lunchroom to eat the cheeseburger which they bought at one of those 12 or 13 popular drive-thrus.
Sir Hilary should ask himself to what extent has his success in tertiary education contributed to a very sedentary populace and by extension increased NCDs? No one is asking to return to the old days, but to face reality and find practical solutions to real problems.
Our learned men and women really should use a little more practicality and commonsense when on their soapboxes.