In response to a BU commenter (Artaxerxes), former popular Talk Show host Walter Blackman delivered a stinging response – required reading for all Barbadians
“Some students may be fortunate enough to gain scholarships and pursue […]qualifications in areas that will benefit the development of Barbados.
But after graduating they are confronted with the reality that they are no employment opportunities available to them here.”
You have commingled two concepts here, so let us separate the two strands.
Strand 1: Many students gain scholarships and pursue qualifications in many areas that would undoubtedly benefit the development of Barbados. That is a fact.
I hate to lean on personal experience here, but it is the quickest method I can use to get over the point.
I was awarded a fellowship by the OAS to study a masters in actuarial science because the OAS, the World Bank, and the IMF believed that a Barbadian should be trained at that level to provide expertise to the NIS of Barbados as the system matured.
I was working in the budget department of the Ministry of Finance, and Mr. Michael Parris was my boss at the time. Although, I had only studied maths up to ‘O’ level at Combermere, I attacked my post-graduate studies with a sense of confidence and determination. So much so, that I was the only student at the University of Nebraska to receive an A in Social Security the year I studied it.
We had no actuaries and no exam centre in Barbados at the time, so thinking ahead, I approached the Society of Actuaries and enquired if I could take the actuarial professional exams on my return to Barbados. If I managed to pass a professional exam before leaving the USA, the Society promised to establish a test centre in Barbados. I passed my exam, and by doing so, succeeded in getting Bridgetown established as a test centre so that other Barbadians coming after me would enjoy the privilege of taking their actuarial professional exams at home.
Strand 2: After graduation, these students are confronted with the reality that there are no employment opportunities available TO THEM here.
The Tom Adams administration was midway in its second term of office when I returned to Barbados, and the first thing I noticed was the extent to which the working environment in the Ministry of Finance had changed. Mr. Parris had moved on to become company secretary of the Arawak Cement Plant. Mr. Erskine Griffith was now saddled with the opportunity of charting my professional career. I was not a member of any political party.
To make a long story short, Mr. Griffith placed me in an acting position (reviewing letters written by Barbadians seeking a waiver of duties and taxes) which rewarded me with an acting allowance of $30 per month. All of my attempts to secure employment in government in areas related to my chosen profession (NIS, Insurance Corporation of Barbados, Supervisor of Insurance Office) were systematically blocked and thwarted. Eventually, Mr. Griffith had me transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Clearly, Mr. Griffith, as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, had his own handpicked list of “experts” to assist the Government of Barbados with its handling of financial matters. Personally, over the course of about 30 years, Mr. Griffith rose to giddying heights (Director of Finance and Planning, Head of the Civil Service, a diplomatic posting in Brussels, BLP senator, and Minister of Agriculture in the Owen Arthur administration). Is it possible that that ministerial posting contributed to Owen Arthur’s downfall?
Now take a few seconds and contrast the rise of Mr. Griffith with the fortunes of the government’s financial sector. Start by mentally recalling the annual Auditor-General’s reports that point to a pervasive, repetitive and sickening breach of government’s financial regulations, dwell for a moment on the scandalous and corrosive CLICO robbery and the complicit behavior of the various actors involved, then think seriously about the millions of taxpayers’ dollars that ought to have ended up in the Treasury, but didn’t. Think also about the millions of dollars that should have never left the Treasury, but did. Ponder on the low probability of you getting an NIS pension, because in actual fact, the politicians and senior civil servants have ensured that no actuary has been aligned to the NIS long enough to raise the hue and cry over the rape and wastage of mandatory contributions paid by Barbadian workers.
Barbados has not reached this blighted predicament by accident. We are here because thousands had to suffer so that a few individuals, who really “ain’t worth what Paddy shot it”, could establish a system to suit their selfish and short-sighted purposes. Some employment opportunities exist in Barbados, but they are deliberately blocked off until the “right” person can be handpicked.
Artaxerxes, I was only 28 years old when I came up against this iniquitous system in Barbados for the first time. Although quite young, I rationalized that it was not me alone that was being victimized. There had to be thousands more suffering the same fate. This rationalization enabled me to keep my sanity, if nothing else. Sometimes, I detect a slight hint of disgust blended with frustration in your writing, and that deep aching pain of long ago comes rushing back to haunt and mock me. Maybe, its about time that all of us Barbadians who have been “unfaired” by this system start thinking about doing something about it.
A country being run in this way can never prosper. My instincts tell me that a backlash is certainly coming.