I begin with a quotation from my five-star book, Westminster’s Jewel – The Barbados Story. “So what is the prognosis for Barbados as we advance into the uncharted waters of the 21st. century? Sadly, from my vantage point, the picture is not a rosy one. Clouds without silver linings are billowing on the horizon, waiting to usher us into new frontiers of uncertainty if not doom. We are sailing towards them with all of the luke-warm, visionless leadership that has retarded our development over the years. And we all know what happens to the people when there is no vision.”
Today, like never before, our country is poised to enter a future of ominous possibilities. I do not recall a time when I have felt such grave concern for the future of my country as I now do. If ever a country needed a charter for change, it is this one. I hope this paper will contribute to the formulation of that charter.
With the abolition of slavery and the introduction of universal adult suffrage in 1950, Barbados was set on the highway to a free and potentially prosperous society. The groundwork needed for this was laid by men like Sir Grantley Adams, Wynter Crawford and the other stalwarts of the Barbados Labour Party. Subsequent governments, led by Errol Barrow, Tom Adams et al made their own contributions.
But the prosperity of which the island was capable was stymied for lack of visionary leadership in leaders who, for the most part, saw themselves and their country as appendages of the British Empire, rather than people in their own right, with the ability to manage their affairs and determine their own values, policies and systems. This lack of confidence in self manifests itself in myriad ways, not least of which is an apparent resolute aversion to change, especially change that threatens any of the objects, traditions and values of the colonial power. It is my contention that this national inertia is responsible for retarding the country’s progress and, indeed, for the current perilous state of our economy.
The fortunes of a people hinge very much on the kind of leaders they choose.
Wise and visionary leaders with liberated minds can be their salvation; weak and visionless leaders who lack confidence can retard their progress and even lead to their downfall. The examples of Singapore and Cuba – to name a few – are there for all to see.
Let’s look at Singapore. The territory is made up of a main island less than twice the size of Barbados and about sixty associated islets. This is Singapore of “the Singapore model” fame. The transformation of this archipelago from an impoverished nation with high levels of illiteracy and unemployment into one of the world’s most developed states is one of the best testimonies to the power of visionary leadership.
The first thing the government headed by Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, did was to establish an infra-structure for industrial activity by creating a series of industrial estates. It then established the Singapore Economic Development Board to promote the country among foreign investors as a place they would want to put their money. In time, branches of the Board would be set up in Europe, Asia and the United States. At the same time the government invested heavily in the training of Singaporeans, both at home and abroad, in high tech industrial skills. Foreign direct investment flowed into Singapore over time, by the year 2001 accounting for 85% of manufactured exports.
Today, Singapore, with no mineral resources, is one of Asia’s and the world’s most prosperous nations. Its port is the second busiest in the world; its unemployment rate among the lowest and its quality of life among the best in Asia. What did Singapore have going for it that we don’t? Nothing, except a leader with a liberated mind, whose vision for his people was not to be clones of the British wearing winter jackets in 80-degree temperatures and glorying in titles of ‘Sir’, ‘Dame’, CBE and OBE. He had a vision that his people could be masters of information technology, putting billions into the Singapore treasury.
I humbly suggest that unless we change the traditional colonial mind-set of our leaders we will not go very far. So here are my proposals for change.
Her Maj. Queen Elizabeth 2
At the top of the charter I propose is a change in our constitution. The quasi-colonial constitution we got with independence does not befit a nation proud of its history, traditions and culture, and imbued with a sense of its own independence. A truly independent Barbados would want its head of state to be a Barbadian and not a national of the very nation state that enslaved and colonized us. All other self-respecting people in the rest of the world, including former British colonies in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, have opted to have their own heads of state and system of national honours.
The retention of the British monarch in independent Caribbean countries is rooted in our colonial, subservient mentality, and serves no other purpose than to massage the latent notion among our people of white superiority.
- A national dialogue on constitutional reform should be initiated with special reference to the adoption of a republican form of government, abolition of the expensive and useless Senate and the need for an executive, rather than the current expensive ceremonial head of state, whose main purpose seems to be to visit centenarians and school children.. The current practice by our leaders of sporadic bursts of pro-republican sentiment without any defined plan is completely unacceptable.
If it is one area of our national affairs that cries for change then it’s the economy. The current economic crisis we face is a direct result of the failure of our leadership over the years to bring vision and change to the economy. Successive governments have been quite satisfied to rest on the laurels of sugar and tourism and a bit of offshore business, and failed to seek out new avenues for the expansion of industry and commerce. To his credit, Prime Minister Errol Barrow did seek to establish a data-processing industry during his time. I am not aware of any similar efforts by any leader since then to open new avenues of employment for Barbadians.
Rt. Exc. E.W Barrow.
Even in the industry that had become the signature of our economy, sugar, we have behaved with the same inertia. Up until relatively recently, we were content to grow sugar cane and process the juice into brown sugar and molasses for export. After all, that is what our colonial masters taught us to be: producers of primary materials to be re-processed by others and returned to us as refined goods.
Well, we all know what happened to sugar. From a high of over 200 000 tons in the pre-independence period, production this year (2017) is not expected to exceed ten thousand.
Rum producers who depended on local molasses to make their coveted spirit have been forced to import molasses from overseas. Current attempts to salvage the sugar industry are rooted more in a sentimental attachment to the industry than in a realistic view of the importance and future of the industry at this time.
Meanwhile, there’s a crop we’ve been growing here for centuries, with the potential to rival sugar in its foreign exchange earning capacity. I speak of West Indian Sea Island Cotton. WISIC – as it’s known – is the longest, strongest and silkiest cotton in the world. On the international cotton market, it is five times more expensive than the next best grade cotton and apparently has such a high reputation that there is no shortage of buyers.
Sea Island Cotton
The wonderful thing about this cotton is that it can only be grown in the Caribbean, since it requires the right amount of sunshine, rain and other climatic conditions to flourish. These conditions are only available in the Caribbean.
So do we have a thriving WISIC industry here making millions in foreign exchange annually? No. But we’ve been talking about it for the last 25 years – just like we’ve been talking about black belly lamb for the last 40 years.
- We need to come to a realistic position on sugar and explore the possibility of replacing it with cotton – not to become primary producers of cotton, but to become producers of Sea Island Cotton textiles.
The field of information technology is another that cries out for exploitation by a country with highly educated people sitting on the doorsteps of the major North American and European markets. Why have we not sought to maximize on the lucrative computer technology industry like Singapore and India? These two countries make huge earnings from information technology. India is now said to be one of the largest I.T capitals of the world. The industry, launched in the early 1970’s, earns billions of dollars in foreign exchange and employs hundreds of thousands.
Exports of soft-wear products and services are made to nearly a hundred countries, with North America accounting for more than 60% of that. Singapore, was once an impoverished British colony like Barbados. In size it is less than twice the size of Barbados and like us has few natural resources. Today it is one of the major international computer technology centres in Asia and the world.
Singapore Information Technology in Singapore
- We need to explore the prospects of creating a thriving soft–ware sector, which, at a time like this, would have been the salvation of the hundreds of young people leaving school each year and looking for meaningful employme A future government needs to revert to the ‘industrialization by invitation’ formula used by Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew and our own Errol Barrow in the 1960’s. Once trained, our people can effectively run the soft ware businesses themselves, should the investors quit when their tax concessions run out.
Significant employment and foreign exchange gains might also be made by maximizing the potential of local industry. Our public transport sector is one area where this can be done. We have a Barbadian manufacturing company called Acme. It makes mini bus chasses and chasses for the smaller Transport Board buses. There must be very good reasons why we don’t use this company to build our bus chasses rather than pay Brazil millions in foreign currency to make them for us.
I see no reason why we can’t. They are already making chasses for the private operators and the Transport Board. All they would need to do is make the bus bodies a bit longer and wider. My research tells me that the current Minister of Transport actually made an announcement two years ago to the effect that they’d be ceasing the importation of buses and having Acme make them.
- Well, it’s about time to implement this plan.
The old adage, “never put all of your eggs in one basket” still holds true. We need to increase the number of baskets in our economy.
THE PUBLIC SERVICE
Its name suggests that it serves our needs. But over time, the Barbados Public Service has come to be identified more with dis-service than service. This institution, like others in the country, is badly in need of reform. I believe it would be true to say that it still functions under rules set down during the colonial era. People doing business with Barbados have complained that the procedures are way too cumbersome and exhaustive. We have to find ways of making it easy for people to invest and do business with our country.
Currently, our record does not paint a pretty picture. According to the World Bank Doing Business Report we stand at 119th out of 189 countries with some other Caribbean countries ahead of us. The country at the top of the ranking is – again – that small Asian state with visionary leadership: Singapore. Is it any wonder they are so very far ahead of us?
The Public Service also needs to remind itself of the purpose for which it was established: that is to serve the needs of the public. Barbadians trying to do business with this service often feel as though they are intruding on someone’s comfort zone. Phones ring for eternity without being answered; when answered callers are referred to a never-ending stream of “other parties”; letters go unanswered. Why should I not be able to write to the head of a government agency and get a reply. It is the height of disrespect. I wrote to the head of the income tax department on two occasions; I am yet to get a reply to any of the letters.
It boggles my mind that successive governments could have presided over this archaic national institution for so many years without recognizing the need to bring it out of the 19th. century. The visionary Errol Barrow knew what he was talking about when he described it as “an army of occupation”. We have to discard the mind-set which seems so endemic in our leadership that nothing left by our erstwhile colonial overlords can be altered.
- A future government needs to set as one of its priorities an investigation into the public service with a view to bringing about necessary change. Central to this process of change must be a sensitization exercise for public workers to the fact that they are servants of the people and have a duty to respond to their needs in a timely and effective manner.
- The reforms should include a change of name for such posts as “Minister” and “Permanent Secretary”. These may be replaced with “Secretary” and “C.E.O” respectively. The change of titles will help to bring an aura of freshness and modernity to the public service.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PARLIAMENTARY SALARIES, & INTEGRITY LAWS
Once more I begin with a quotation from my book, Westminster’s Jewel – the Barbados Story.
“ In these parts, some of those who offer themselves for public office may be as motivated by the desire to serve, as they are by the temptation to profit from the flesh of the fatted calf. When it comes to securing their well-being and that of their families into the future, our political office holders are not at all hesitant. We’ve only got to take a look at the generous separation packages these ‘servants of the people’ have sat down and voted themselves.
Barbadians were shocked recently when the amazing details of these packages were publicized in the Press by one of our Trade unionists and social activists, Caswell Franklyn. Franklyn, who’s the founder of the recently launched Unity Trade Union, has been a fearless campaigner against the many social infelicities in the Public Service and government.
In an exposé, published in the Press on June 29, 2014, Franklyn demonstrated in indisputable terms the shameless actions of politicians over the years in feathering their own nests, while depriving ordinary Barbadians of the little benefits they enjoyed.
This apparent conflict of interest was at its most blatant when our honourable parliamentarians voted themselves a ten percent increase in parliamentary salaries in 1991, ahead of an eight per-cent cut in the salaries of public workers and parliamentarians, as the country grappled with a difficult economy. In effect, when government workers are taking home eight percent less salary, parliamentarians were taking home two percent more.
“The obvious conflict of interest in legislators voting salaries and benefits for themselves, which the Barbadian parliamentarians appear not to recognise, is taken care of in other countries by the appointment of special committees to advise on parliamentary salaries and allowances. In Britain, there is the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which not only sets MP’s salaries but establishes and monitors expenses for Members of the House of Commons.
In Australia, there is the Salaries and Allowances Tribunal which has responsibility for both determining and recommending rates of remuneration for the Governor, Members of Parliament, Judges, Magistrates and other top state functionaries. New Zealand has a Remuneration Authority for the same purpose; and closer to home there’s the Salaries Review Commission in Trinidad & Tobago and the Parliamentary Salaries Review Committee in Jamaica.
It is patently unacceptable that our legislators should have the power to set their own terms and conditions of service in the outrageous terms described by Mr. Franklyn. “
- Hence, we need an independent body which we could call the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Salaries, to set the terms and conditions of service of members of parliament.
The statement from a senior government official that integrity laws are not a priority is truly reflects the ‘banana republic’ behaviour that is exhibited ever so often in our country. For what he’s saying implicitly is that transparency and propriety in the conduct of public business are not things to be concerned about.
Well, it appears that Barbados is in an almost singular position in this regard. Trinidad & Tobago has an Integrity in Public Life Act as does St. Lucia, Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis; Guyana has an Integrity Commission as does Grenada and Jamaica.
Barbados passed the law and allowed it to lapse – we don’t think it is important. But we must remember this is the land of the fatted calf. You cannot have an integrity commission overseeing the distribution of the meat from this calf.
- The myriad financial discrepancies reported annually in the Auditor General’s report suggest that we do need an integrity commission as a matter of urgency. Broadly speaking, the commission’s role would be to promote integrity and transparency in the conduct of public affairs, with particular reference to the procurement of goods and service by the state and the disbursement of public money.
GREATER ACCESSIBILITY TO THE PEOPLE
Once elected, our parliamentary representatives are fairly inaccessible. Very often constituents experience great difficulty connecting with their MP’s. This is especially so when MP’s hold ministerial positions. The only routine interface between constituents and MP is the party branch meeting, a partisan forum not normally attended by constituents who don’t support the party the MP represents.
Members of parliament are elected to represent constituencies, not party branches. It is therefore necessary for them to have constituency meetings rather branch meetings.
- These constituency meetings should be held quarterly, offering constituents a chance to ask their MP’s questions raise issues and problems affecting the constituency and seek assistance with appropriate personal matters.
The radio call-in has become a standard forum for the venting of concerns and questions, and for suggestions of change by the public. While it is true that in this forum we can hear talk about the earth being flat and which side of the brain is used for what purpose, there are occasionally very worthwhile suggestions for the better ordering of the society. Currently, it appears that our leaders are not listening – or if they are, they are only doing so to rebut things that bring discredit to their party or government. There needs to be a better attitude on the part of our leadership to the views expressed by citizens on the call-in programme.
- A mechanism should be put in place to ensure that suggestions and observations made on call-in programmes that relate to aspects of the work of the various ministries, are recorded and passed on to the relevant Minister.
REFORM OF JUDICIAL SYSTEM
The justice system in Barbados is in a major crisis. The saying “justice delayed is justice denied” is a true one; and there are many Barbadians who are being denied justice in this modern, parliamentary democracy.
I quote my book, Westminster’s Jewel – The Barbados Story, once again:-
“ The slow syndrome is probably at its worst manifestation in our judicial system. The wheels of justice in this fair land turn at the speed of molasses, much to the disappointment of accused persons, Lawyers and litigants.. It is a matter that engaged the attention of the Caribbean Court of Justice in its judgment in the case of Winton Campbell versus the Attorney General.
The Court de-cried the fact that the trial Judge took three years to deliver his judgment, and that the Barbados Court of Appeal took almost four and a half years on the same matter. The CCJ said such delays deny parties access to justice, and undermine confidence in the administration of justice. It suggested that judgments should normally be delivered within three months – six at the most.
Equally outrageous is the case of indecent assault brought by a woman that dragged on in the courts for more than seven years without a hearing, because of the inability of the Police to produce the file. What kind of banana republic are we living in when something as important as a court file can be lost? This is totally unacceptable, and whoever is accountable should have paid the price for this dereliction of duty.
What is particularly distressing about the inefficiency and incompetence of the system is that it is largely the poor and underprivileged who suffer the most – people like the elderly man who drew his plight to the attention of the nation via a radio call-in programme. He was injured and incapacitated in an accident in 1988 and attended court 74 times without a hearing. What an awful travesty of justice.
The slow pace of justice is attributable as much to the shortage of available presiding officers as it is to the cumbersome, archaic way in which our court functions. It is simply incredible that in 2017 our Judges and Magistrates should still be writing down evidence themselves in long hand.
- As a matter of urgency, efforts should be made to modernize the system of evidence recording in court, and generally provide the tools necessary for the smooth functioning of a modern judicial system. There is also an urgent need to appoint more Judges and Magistrates.
- The creation of a small-claims court might also go some way towards easing the pressure on the lower courts. This court should function as informally as possible; and be a replacement for the Office of Public Counsel, which, thus far, has failed to capture the imagination of the people.
REFORM OF ELECTORAL LAWS – FINANCING OF PARTIES
The financing of political parties through contributions from individuals and business interests is an area that cries out for transparency. As it stands now “dark shadows” can put money into parties with the expectation that if the party wins the election, they will be favoured in the award of public contracts for goods and services.
It is unacceptable that any citizen or entity should be given special favours by a government in return for contributions to election campaigns. Governments should never be beholden to any individual nor entity in the execution of public duty.
- The Representation of the People Act should be amended to make it mandatory for political parties to disclose the source of external campaign financing.
- A cap should be placed on such contributions.
The public transport system is a national disgrace. After more than 60 years of existence the Transport Board still finds it difficult to meet the transportation needs of the island with efficiency. The long lines of tired commuters in the bus stands on evening waiting – sometimes for hours before they can get on a bus to go home says it all.
Tired commuters waiting forever to
On mornings, many school children arrive in their classrooms late, and some workers are forced to leave home before 6:00 A.M to if they want to ensure they get to work at 8:00 all because of a chronically inefficient transport system. Were it not for the private service providers, the country would probably grind to a stand-still.
Countries with visionary leadership all recognize the pivotal role of mass transit to the proper functioning of their economies, and invest heavily in efficient transportation system. Workers who have a stressful time getting to and from work, or who get there late habitually are unlikely to perform at their optimum, with the consequential impact that has on productivity.
Transport systems are not cheap, but the alternative of poor mass transit is even more expensive to the country in the long run. Big countries, far larger than Barbados, and even smaller ones like Bermuda, manage to operate highly efficient mass transit systems, complete with information systems that can tell you virtually down to the second when the bus or train will arrive.
Bermuda buses A Bermuda ferry
Barbados is a little over 166 square miles. The farthest journey without traffic congestion could be accomplished in less than half an hour. You would think that it would be the easiest thing in the world to run an efficient transport service; but after 60 years we can’t.
The problem is not lack of resources, as some would want to have us believe. After all we found seven million to spend on independence celebrations and we’re about spend more millions hosting Carifesta. And we find thousands to spend entertaining tourists at Ilaro Court, unnecessary travel by Ministers, expensive automobiles for big officials, constituency councils and other wasteful expenditures. The problem is a lack of will and vision, and a generally low-minded attitude among the negrocrats who run this place that anything will do for the working-class.
- Urgent attention needs to be given to equipping the Transport Board to meet the needs of commuters. The plan announced by the Minister for the construction of bus chasses locally should be implemented, thereby saving foreign currency and creating employment for Barbadians.
- The Board needs to address itself to providing an online information system that allows commuters to know the status of the daily services – e.g: a quick check with a Transport Board website with information on whether a particular bus is on schedule. It is patently unacceptable for commuters to be standing at bus poles for hours waiting for a bus that will not come.
- We need to explore the viability of a ferry service. Barbados is an island, hence transportation via the sea should be a natural for us, just like it is in Bermuda and other island nations in the Caribbean and elsewhere. The ferry service could operate along the south coast – say from Oistins to Bridgetown and/or from Speightstown to Bridgetown. This service would be especially valuable for commuters transporting produce and other bulky luggage.
In recent times, Barbados’ image in the eyes of other Caribbean people has not been at all flattering. The Myrie case and those of other Caribbean people visiting us have painted a picture of us as a hostile destination for travelers from within the region.
The xenophobic attitude which we display towards our Caribbean brothers and sisters contrasts with the obsequious reception given to non-black visitors from elsewhere. Under the provisions of the Caribbean Single Market Barbados is obligated to give unfettered access to visitors from the Caribbean, except under certain conditions.
- We need to pay due respect to the C.S.M.E agreement we signed and ensure that visitors from CARICOM countries received the same, if not better reception than foreigners at our ports of entry.
- Immigration workers should be sensitized to the provisions of the C.S.M.E treaty and the need for greater professionalism when dealing with visitors.
- CARICOM nationals who live and work in Barbados and pay taxes should not be denied free health care and education as I understand is now the case.
Like the public service, education in Barbados cries out for reform. This sector
consumes the lion share of the government’s annual budget. One estimate puts the total spent on the sector since independence in 1966 at 30 billion Barbados dollars.
That is a lot of money. The question, then is: are we getting the benefits that should be commensurate with this heavy investment? My answer is ‘no’. And part of the reason for that lies in the fact that we have so resolutely turned our backs on reform – of any kind. Our school system is virtually what we inherited from the British many years ago.
We still organize our school year according to the British system, starting with the Michaelmas term in September, following through with the Hilary term from January to March and ending with the Trinity term from April to June. And, of course, we still have their Barbados scholarship, their Common Entrance or Eleven Plus examination and their Protestant religious indoctrination in our schools.
I began by pointing to the heavy investment we make in our education system. Any objective analysis cannot but conclude that we are not gaining anywhere near what we should from this investment. It is unacceptable that a significant number of those writing the Common Entrance Exam continue to score way below acceptable levels; that over 60% of students leave secondary school without certification in a single subject; that so many adults who passed through the secondary system display such poor language skills in their contributions to internet blogs and other mass media.
In a recently-published report, Dr Mariana Alfonso, a Senior Education Specialist with the Inter-American Development Bank made some critical observations on the Barbados education system, based on studies done between 1999 and 2012. According to Dr. Alfonso, the research shows that many school leavers cannot even meet the basic requirement of four Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) passes for entry into the public service.
“Of the students who actually take that exam, 50 per cent obtain far more CSEC passes, but only after multiple sittings,”
In fact, she said “only 6.1 per cent of the students in Barbados get the four passes in the first sitting of the exam”. The IDB official went on to show that the problem was not only one of poor education, but also a lack of preparation for entry into the workforce. “We’re seeing that students are not necessarily well prepared to support an economy that is based on knowledge and innovation, because most of the CXC passes are not done, for example in science and technology. There is still a large share of students who are doing, for example, electronic document preparation and office administration,” she said.
- The future of our country and our people demands that urgent reforms be brought to the education system. A national commission and dialogue on education reform should be one of the priorities of a future government. The commission should address itself to – among other things –
the under-performance of children at both the primary and secondary levels;2. the need for Teacher appraisal (if it does not now exist). Teachers must be held accountable when children pass through their hands and cannot demonstrate acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy.3. the need for a greater emphasis on science and technology subjects (e.g information technology and marine biology etc.);4. Expanded access to technical and vocational education;5. A strong programme of values education to inculcate in our children respect for themselves and others, caring for others, mannerliness and politeness, tolerance of others who are different and deportment. This programme should replace the long-standing tradition of Protestant religious indoctrination, originating with Church control of the school system.Barbados is not a religious state. The Father of Independence, Rt. Ex. E.W. Barrow dis-established the Anglican Church in 1969, 48 years ago. And religion in this country is still a matter of the free exercise of individual choice. It is not something to be prescribed for anyone, especially in a secular school setting, all the more so in a multi-religious society like ours.
- Rationalization of the Common entrance Examination, with special reference to its purpose. This exercise should pay attention to the need for remedial attention to under-achieving students, and the need for the high achievers to advance at their own pace without being held back by those with remedial needs. In effect, it needs to establish a meaningful purpose for this test, which, as it stands right now, does nothing more than give parents a choice of which secondary school their child will attend.
- Re-training of primary school Teachers in modern child-rearing methods. Far too many Teachers are stuck in the old, outdated mode of loud and aggressive communication with children. In 2017 Barbadian children are still being dragged, shouted at and slapped by angry Teachers whose only purpose is to give vent to their anger.
- Abolition of the Barbados Scholarship. This scholarship is nothing more than a hang-over from colonial times. Its only purpose, it seems, is to distribute significant amounts of national resources to middle and upper-class Barbadians who could easily pay for their children’s education. Scholarship winners are not even bonded to return to Barbados and contribute to the society, unlike winners of National Development Scholarships. They can simply train at the taxpayers’ expense and then ride off into the sunset never to be seen again.The same question asked of the Common Entrance can be asked about the Barbados Scholarship: what is its purpose. Surely it can’t be just to give away money to a student, based on his academic performance. I would imagine that the needs of the nation state for expertise in a given area would be a key consideration, and as such, the awardee would be bonded to give back to the state. In the absence of this give-back the scholarship becomes a mere give-away, without rhyme or reason.
- In the absence of abolition, significant restrictions need to be put on the use of corporal punishment. This form of punishment has traditionally been abused in our society, schools included. We need to put behind, forever, the days when children were beaten for the most frivolous of “offences” or for getting their work wrong. The Ministry of Education needs to set strict guidelines which limit corporal punishment to offences of a grave nature. It also need to define how this punishment is to be applied and with what instrument.
One final quotation from my book, Westminster’s Jewel – The Barbados Story:
“Half a century into its existence CBC is a national embarrassment – an enterprise adrift with no sign of visionary leadership nor mission in sight. It is, perhaps, symptomatic of the crisis of management and leadership in which the station finds itself that in the second decade of the 21st. century its programme department is functioning without a budget for the purchase and production of shows.
This bizarre circumstance has resulted in viewers without alternative choices having to endure never-ending repeats of programmes, some of them more than 20 years old and shows imported from the United States. Even in those moments when the station has the opportunity to put a local face on the screen – as in fill-time between programmes – the choice, which is largely left to a switcher at a desk, is for some foreign artiste. If it’s a Sunday then it will be the cacophonous strains of an African American gospel group.
This obtains even in the lead up to the main news at 7:00 in the evening, when the station commands the eyes and ears of the nation. How much more patriotic to sit and be entertained by a talented Barbadian singer, instrumentalist, dancer or poet, rather than an unknown artiste from North America.
That this grotesque state of affairs could pass before the eyes of our political and social leadership without question speaks to the enormity of the problem confronting us. In effect, we not only have a problem servicing this medium in a way that is appropriate to our culture, environment and people, but there seems not even to be an understanding among those with influence and power, nor indeed among the general population, that a problem exists at all. It comes right down, I think, to the national consensus that we are mere appendages of Europe and North American – vessels for the receipt of their music, their images and stories.”
Fifty years on, CBC’s offering should not still be the products of television production houses in North America and Britain. This constant exposure to North American culture on radio and television only serves to reinforce the negative mirror image our people have of themselves and the resulting lack of confidence. Small wonder then that we see North American and European societies as being at the centre of the world, and ours as being on the periphery.
With that world view, it is not surprising that we feel the need to ape the cultural traits of these supposedly superior societies – the copying of American accents and vernacular and the predominance of foreign music on our radio stations; some even try to bleach their dark skins and straighten their hair.
- A future government of Barbados needs to give CBC a new mandate to reflect the culture and positive values of Barbadian and Caribbean societies in its programming. This may mean investing resources in the station to achieve this, as is done in Britain and North America. The station should also be encouraged to engage in programme exchanges with our Caribbean neighbours, which would expand the scope of available local (Caribbean) programmes.
- CBC should also be mandated to show greater cooperation with independent producers who’ve complained of having a hard time getting their stuff on the station.
The treatment of the itinerant sole traders (street Vendor) in Barbados over the centuries has been consistently oppressive. It began in the 17th. century and continued into the 18th. century under the old plantocracy, and it continues today under the rule of black, negrocratic government. Street vending is a feature of city life all over the world – from the most developed to the most impoverished country.
Street vending, London Street vending, Barbados
Only this year, the Los Angeles City Council decriminalised street vending. The ordinances, which were approved on a 13-0 vote, replace criminal misdemeanor charges with citations and remove criminal penalties against a person who fails to pay an administrative citation. Police may no longer confiscate the property of street vendors under the newly approved ordinances and may only issue citations.
Councilman Jose Huizar was quoted as saying: “I think the city of L.A. and this council has come a long way in terms of our view of street vendors… acknowledging the benefits that street vendors bring to us and the acknowledgment that we should bring them out of the shadows to contribute to the economy.”
Well, good for Los Angeles. There are people with vision and humanity some where. But back in Barbados the notion is still abroad that Vendors are more of a scourge on the community.
These enterprising Barbadians harness enough resources to go out and buy merchandise which they trade on the streets to make a living, only to be hounded by the Police every 18 months, and generally get treated like nuisances by the powers that be.
You would have thought that any government would be happy to have people employ themselves, thereby reducing the unemployment numbers. But instead of welcoming these entrepreneurs and giving them the respect they pay to business people of other racial backgrounds, governments over the years have chosen to make life for them a bed of thorns.
- Future governments need to treat Street Vendors with the respect they deserve. Working with BARVEN, the Barbados Association of Retailers Vendors and Entrepreneurs, the government must provide an environment for street vending that is conducive to order, peace and the success of the Vendors’ trade. Barbados must no be perceived as a place where the darkness of your skin determines your treatment as a business person.
- Vending is a feature of cities all over the world. The highly restrictive regulations which obtain in Barbados need to be reviewed. Maybe we could take a leaf out of Los Angeles’ book.
- When changes are to be made that affect Vendors, public administrators must communicate with the Vendors. The days of a public official waking up one morning and outlawing vending that has been going on in an area for 40 years, must end.
It has probably become a cliché, but the adage, “Where There Is No Vision The People Perish”, still holds very much true. Barbados badly needs visionary leadership. With the possible exception of E.W Barrow, our leaders to date have all lacked that vision. They were all schooled in the ways of the colonial master and bought into the notion of being sons and daughters of Westminster.
They have no concept of themselves as a people in their own right, with a history, culture and value system that is separate and distinct from that of their erstwhile colonial masters, as evidenced in the fact that they still give themselves and their people titles like Dame and Knight of St. George and St. Andrew, and Officer of the British Empire; and dress in the heavy wintry garb the colonial overlords brought here from the coldness of Europe.
The time has now come for a new look at how we do things and why we do things. Barbadians are crying out for change in methods, procedures and values that have been bottling the country up and preventing us from advancing. In the second decade of the 21st. century no one should have to take a day off from work, to stand in a line in order to pay a licence fee. No one should write to a government agency and not have the courtesy of a reply. No one should have to wait in a bus terminal for two hours after work before they can get home.
We need a new vision of self – a new mirror image. We must no longer walk in the shadows of those who ruled us, but step out into the light and create our own shadows.
Let Us Then, Walk Boldly
Going Where No Leader Has Gone Before,
Casting Off The Cloak Of Colonial Subservience
And Embracing The New Image In The Mirror,
Striding Like Proud Men And Women,
Each Step Echoing That Confidence And Purpose Of An Independent And Liberated Spirit
To Take Our Place In The World As Equals To All And Satellites Of None.
Let Us Spread Our Wings And Soar Like The Eagle Unto The Heavens,
For the sky is the limit.
The People Deserve Nothing Less Than Bold, Visionary Leadership Into New Avenues Of Consciousness And Prosperity.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017