I totally reject Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s often repeated admonition that Barbados is a weak and vulnerable society/economy that is caught up in an international recession, and that can do little or nothing about its predicament.
On the contrary, I see Barbados as a sturdy little nation that possesses resources which –– if properly organized and mobilized –– can propel the country forward and upward, international recession or no international recession!
As far as I am concerned, there is no need for us to remain in a negative helpless posture of national hand-wringing and despondency! Rather, let us recognize that out salvation lies within our own hands, and that what we need to do is to organize ourselves and our national resources for social and economic production.
But central to such a mission is a national education system that is designed to reproduce, preserve and root us in our distinctive Bajan/Caribbean national culture, and to foster a national propensity for self-confidence, initiative, high academic or technical achievement, social solidarity, cooperative work, independent thought, and self-reliance.
The idea would be to establish the type of national education system that could provide the foundation for a model of development in which we Barbadians assume the primary responsibility for establishing productive enterprises, and in which the economic development of Barbados is based squarely on our country’s educational and human development.
In other words, we need to jettison this idea that the foreign investor will be our saviour, or that Barbados could or should “develop” itself by increasing the number of its citizens employed in relatively unskilled, low-technology, dead-end manufacturing, tourism or other service jobs.
I therefore envisage a new Barbados economy based on the following planks:
1. Education, as a foreign exchange earning industry in its own right;
2. High technology manufacturing;
3. Intensive, high technology-based food production;
4. Cultural or arts-based industries;
5. Cultural and heritage tourism;
6. Health tourism;
7. Sports tourism;
8. A national Employee Share-Ownership Programme;
9. Public/private sector partnership in the development and commercial use of such national assets as our rum, sugar, Sea Island cotton, solar technology, classic Bajan furniture, pepper sauce, Blackbelly sheep, cricket heritage, classic Bajan literature, pottery –– and the list goes on;
10. A cooperative or people’s sector of the economy based on a combining and mobilization of the resources of our credit unions, cooperatives, trade unions, churches, educational institutions and community-based organizations;
11. An organized public/private sector effort to provide for the technical, administrative, managerial and trade-related needs of our fellow CARICOM member states;
12. A meaningful national entrepreneurial partnership with the Barbadian and wider Caribbean Diaspora in North America and Europe;
13. A systematic process of small business development, based –– among other things –– on the directing of Government contracts and Government expenditure towards small business;
14. A series of local environmental development projects, with funding provided under the international global warming/climate change agenda;
15. Development of a new relationship with Latin America, based –– in the first instance –– on enhanced relations with Venezuela and Cuba, and on Barbados joining PetroCaribe and the Bolivarian Alliance For Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA);
16. Engagement with the African Union (AU) on its Diaspora/Sixth Region Initiative by undertaking joint AU/Barbados developmental projects;
17. Expansion of solar energy mechanisms and applications right across the island;
18. A systematic effort to dismantle the national “log-jam” of unmet human needs, unemployed people, and unused financial resources with a national programme of low income housing construction; expanded educational programmes; expanded health care provision; local food production; and solar energy production;
19. An organized “research and development” effort, based on and in the University of the West Indies; and
20. Implementation of the notion that –– especially in a period of economic distress –– each Government ministry must identify and undertake responsibility for developing at least one concrete project that will add significant economic value to our nation.
If one closely examines these 20 propositions, one will discern that at the heart of each proposition is the notion of a conscious, patriotic, culturally rooted, highly educated and trained Barbadian population.
Thus, we come right back to the fundamental issue of education and national identity formation.
In the next component of this extended essay, I will outline a proposal for a revamping of Barbados’ educational system (and the umbilically connected spheres of cultural development and mass media), before going on to explain how my 20 developmental propositions can be implemented in our beloved country.
(David Comissiong, attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)