One can argue that the state in post independent Barbados has never provided the environment to foster economic independence to the majority black population. Despite this a few black businessmen managed to gain economic independence but the majority of the black population has settled for becoming the employed and never the employers. On the other hand, the minority white population has more employers and entrepreneurs.
Except for a limited apprenticeship period early in the history of Barbados – and in poverty stricken areas like Martins Bay- the minority white population has always had economic independence and social independence. At emancipation, the blacks were given social independence; it was not economic because they were not paid reparations for the time they had spent as slaves. At independence in 1966, the island gained its political independence from Great Britain.
Herein lies the present structure of inequality of Barbados; 99% of the 5% whites have social, political and economic independence and the 95% of the black population believe that they have social and political independence. Of that 95 % less than 5% have economic independence.
There are several reasons for this. The outdated educational system in Barbados does not teach entrepreneurship, poverty among blacks, the prohibitive lending practices of the banks, limited scope of government’s business development schemes and the inability of back businessmen to receive lucrative government contracts. This article will focus on the latter.
Throughout post independent Barbados, wealthy white businessmen have played prominent role to direct the political affairs of the island. In the past they were known as white shadows. Of late, they are no longer in the shadows and their presence now looms larger than life. Even the great Errol Barrow could not shake the hold that the minority whites held after his party achieved independence in 1966. They were the landowners and therefore voters before the backs obtained the right to vote. Did this give them preferential access to the government over blacks? One wonders why this preferential relationship has continued with successive black governments and why the whites do not seek political office.
In the midst of the present economic recession on the island, it is now essential more than ever that the black population achieve economic independence. Each successive administration has offered lucrative business contracts to the white minority and very few to blacks. This has created several white business magnates who by their portfolio now cater to every need on the island, leading to a concentration of power and wealth in their hands.
The present reality is that we have a situation where a fraudulent election has produced a hypocritical government which pretends to have the best interest of the people but their actions to these minority white business men speak otherwise. This small group of business men has attached itself as a parasite to the public purse to create every scheme they can dream up. In essence government ministers are now the puppets of the whites who no longer control from the shadows. Every Minister of the elected government has compromised his position to the entire electorate of Barbados in some was as a result of his involvement with those businessmen.
Both the Prime Minister and the Attorney general have admitted that votes were bought in the 2013 election. Bizzy Williams has admitted that he has given money to finance political campaigns for both parties as well as that he made a donation to the police force. It is no wonder that the police never investigated the Cahill scam. Bizzy Williams, Bjorn Bjerkham, Cow Williams, Mark Maloney and Tempro have all found a way to achieve wealth off the backs of the black people of Barbados long after slavery has ended. They bring no genuine investment but depend on the taxpayers’ money to finance their business schemes.
The cash strapped present administration whose members have already sold themselves to the highest bidder is seeking to divest government’s assets. The Sanitation Service Authority seems to be on the list of things to sell and what has unfolded as the Garbage Crisis in Barbados is quite telling; for months the state refused to take hold of its responsibility to remove garbage and then there was the drama surrounding the infamous tipping fee that was to be paid to Mr. Williams’ disposal company and after that several mysterious garbage trucks landed at the Bridgetown port. Now that the garbage collection system has almost collapsed, in comes Mr. Williams as a knight in shining amour to announce a proposal that he is willing to manage the garbage disposal in Barbados for $60 M a year. This alone is evidence that the SAS was allowed to fail so that the government could take hold of Mr. William’s offer. It is a clear picture of collusion between the Minister Denis Lowe and Mr. Bizzy Williams.
Since Opposition Senator Abrahams was able to comment on Mr. William’s announcement, an offer must be on the table and one must wonder of its contents. No manager of the SSA or the Minister is paid $60M a year. So exactly what does this management entail? Are those green garbage trucks that did not have an owner part of the $60M deal? What will happen to the workers currently employed by government? Does this mean that Mr. Williams, in addition to garbage collection will be responsible for garbage disposal? Will his new $60 M responsibility include decision making on any future waste to energy plants in Barbados for which land has already been vested and finders fees paid?
Mr. Williams is no angel, saint or savior. There are already private waste haulers who could have done this job. Chief among them is Mr. Cherry, private waste haulers who government seems bent n victimizing. Mr. Cherry should now offer government a counter proposal to collect the garbage in Barbados.
One wonders if the outcome of government’s failure to collect garbage is a sign of things to come for the delivery of other public services for which taxpayers’ money is utilized. This brings me to the water crisis that is being experienced in the North of the island. Is the provision of tap water being allowed to fail so that a white businessman can offer to provide running water to those affected residents at let us say $300M a year?
At the end of the day there is a need for the ending of secrecy and beginning of transparency in the way the government awards contracts and other business initiatives, the tendering process must be followed. There is a need for a quota system in the awarding of government contracts. 95% of the island should receive 95 % of the contracts and the 5% who are already wealthy will not suffer if they receive 5% of the contracts. Black business men, community groups or cooperatives must be formed to present counters offers to the government in light of the proposition offered by Mr. Williams as well as for other projects. If Mr. Williams can do it off the taxpayers’ money any black business man can do it too.
If this situation persists unchallenged and unchanged, we are headed to what can only be termed as economic slavery where the government collects taxes just to pass on to this minority. To make this situation even worse, a fraudulent election means that there is no political independence of the electorate. This means that after 50 years of achieving independence, the black population is headed back to the pre emancipation period. We never had economic independence, our political independence was sold for a mess of pottage on the last election day and; social independence (our pride which some of us relinquished by giving up the right to vote for free and fair elections) which is dependent on the former also vanished on the last election day.