Submitted by Heather Cole (The Barbados Lobby)
Barbadians are patriotic to the bone. Not even in the USA is Independence celebrated for a whole month as is done in Barbados. It is pride and industry and those colours of blue, gold and black that holds the threads that bind us all together.
Independence is the time for cultural activity and to reminisce of the past, eat our national dishes and watch the armed and unarmed Units parade in all their pomp and pageantry at the Garrison Savannah.
However, time and time again history has revealed that every great empire or civilization after rising to its zenith then underwent a phase of decadence that ultimately led to its demise. It has happened to the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans and the British. Although Barbados is not a great Empire, there is an analogy.
It is usually said that times have changed but on reflection, time never changes. It is a cycle that repeats itself. There are good times and there are bad times. The Barbados of 1966 was not the same Barbados of the year 2000, nor is the Barbados of 2015 the same as any of these two time periods. In its colonial days Barbados became renowned as the gem of the Caribbean. In recent times it was known as a leader in education, healthcare and social services as well as having a stable economic system.
Barbados is classified as a small open economy. This basically means that whatever is happening in the rest of the world, primarily the USA affects its economy. When the US economy is doing great, so is Barbados; when it is underperforming that is also reflected in Barbadian economy. In essence the theory states that the island is too small to influence its own economic activity. From independence, the country has been on a seemingly steady path of economic growth until 2008. Early in 2008 the government changed and a worldwide recession started shortly thereafter. It lasted 18 months but somehow, Barbados remained stuck in its grasp while the rest of the world moved on. This has effectively shattered the theory of the small open economy.
One may ask what caused the theory to shatter. The answer lies in the fact that after the worldwide recession ended, the recession that continued in Barbados was man made, created by poor management and unsound economic policies of the government. This recession has not only affected Barbados economically but socially as well. To date the country’s credit rating is at zero, businessmen in Bridgetown are crying out for foreign exchange, there is labour unrest. Thirty five new taxes have been introduced burdening the population. There is a controversy surrounding the building of a gasification plant which is to bring even more taxation. Health and social services are on the decline and the only things that are growing are the government’s debt, unemployment, poverty, vagrants in Bridgetown and crime. There is not even a safe haven for tourism because the US, Canada and Great Britain have all issued travel advisories warning their citizens of the island’s escalating crime rate. Added to this, the threat of Cuba as a unique tourist destination is looming on the horizon.
In this season of independence, are we just celebrating what happened on November 30th 1966? Are we celebrating the significance of that proclamation that placed us on a path to control our destiny? Or are we celebrating a timeline of events that were started on that day? These may appear to be strange questions to ask but with the introduction of portable standpipes and the reduction in “free” tertiary education at the university, the lack of transparency and the deafening silence of leaders who do not communicate with the citizens who elected them, the country seems to be moving not forward but backwards to colonial times.
In this season of independence before you consider indulging in conkies and souse, attending the parade at the Garrison Savannah or even lustily singing “God Bless Bim on Independence Day”, ask yourselves what are we really celebrating? Will the answer be patriotism? Will the answer be the demise of a once illustrious gem?