Encouraging A Culture Of Mendicancy

Submitted by Charles Knighton


Reference is made to the editorial in the Barbados Advocate of March 06th, A culture of entitlement. First, some needed clarification.  The British welfare state did not gain a firm foothold in Britain until the decade of the 1960’s, the same decade as independence for Barbados was achieved. To claim “Well over 300 years of unbroken British rule” as one of the reasons for a culture of entitlement in Barbados attempts to shift blame away from local politicians only too  willing to offer “freeness” from the public purse for votes.

As to the heart of the editorial, paragraphs six and seven are key. “Why hasn’t entrepreneurism taken off in Barbados the way it has elsewhere in the world? Perhaps because too many Barbadians, young and old, believe that the government should be providing them the means, not just the ways, to do whatever project they wish to do?”

Following which we read : “…what we have that sets us apart is our people. We have already transitioned to a services economy, but we cannot turn that very special resource, people, into the economic powerhouse that it can be, that it needs to be, without a change of attitude.”

Your curative prescription? “Teach people to fish, make it easy to fish, but don’t give them the fish”,  only the third part of which is desirable. Making things easy rarely provides a satisfactory sense of accomplishment nor nurtures a strong work ethic, while teaching people to fish will only bear results in an an avidly eager population, though rarely in an avidly complacent population such as Barbados. While I stand to be corrected, I am not aware of any truly successful educational campaign in Barbados resulting in long-term behavioural changes in a target group, as complacency always seems to trump concerted effort.

Your Editorial begins by quoting the charismatic and inspiring President John Kennedy. Mr Kennedy challenged citizens of the United States to ask what they could do for their country while providing neither ways nor means to meet such a challenge, only the inspiration to do so.  Barbados needs such a leader, not simply the government functionaries it has been saddled with for so many years.

Inspirational, motivating oratory to challenge the status quo, leaving it to the people how best to meet any challenge is key. If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather inspire in them a longing for the endless immensity of the sea.

0 thoughts on “Encouraging A Culture Of Mendicancy


  1. Back in the day when Errol Barrow was Prime Minister, I read statements by Ministers which said that just about every Barbadian could read and write, but weren’t functionally literate, also that if you put a Barbadian in Britain or the USA, the person would work all hours and as hard as possible in order to achieve their aims – though not true for all, there is fact in those statements.
    In Barbados I perceive a culture of maximizing reward for little effort – I’m a doctor or lawyer, I charge so much, I’m a labourer, I charge so much per day, but you get short changed by them all – they all get paid fully, by label and not by results.
    Actual cases – What takes lawyers 18 months and 3 years respectively to complete the sale of empty properties with full cash settlement sitting in banks all that time?
    You do the search yourself and uncover a will, you are promised a copy next day and you turn up the next 3 days unable to obtain the promised copy. Months later you still haven’t received the copy.
    Returning to the UK I sat next to a British Council agriculturist with a long experience working in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. He related how it was necessary to use psychology on the people he was assisting in Trinidad and Barbados – don’t tell them what to do or they will just blank you. Find a spot within earshot and occasionally wander over and ask them how they were getting on, listen, drop a hint and walk away. Eventually they would come to him and excitedly explain how they had successfully discovered how to do the task.
    In all the other areas of the world he had worked, he could tell people they were wrong and tell them the correct method, they took that in and moved on further with the project, consequently made faster progress in a very much shorter period of time.
    One experience I had – a hired car was returned for overheating. The proprietor handed the mechanics a strobe light and asked them to check the timing. It never got attached and after about half an hour I told my brother that I (no motor mechanic) was going to show the guys how to use it , he caution me saying, no, they would only curse you.
    It’s a culture of laziness and pig-headedness, an epidemic really. It’s amazing how static many people can be, you meet their grandfathers and great grandfathers when you were a kid and you meet them again when you are pushing 70. No change in outlook and no change even in discourse.


  2. I’m watching carefully, the method this government has adopted in respect to the damage done by tropical storm Tomas. It may be O.K to repair the houses that was damaged but has the government gone that one step further by making it mandatory that ALL house owners insure their property? What would happen if we really get hit by a hurricane? is the government in a position to repair or replace the houses damaged? Having set a precedent, the people are expecting the government to continue.


    • On the subject of mendicancy it is interesting to note that an already massive public sector bill is set to balloon further if we go by the Nation’s report of the Estimates 2010-2011.

      On the other hand, the bulk of Government spending – $639.42 million – will be for the general public service.

      The education budget will again receive a sizeable portion of taxpayer dollars as $537.28 million has been budgeted there. Health spending for the coming year is set at $431.47 million, while social security and welfare will get an increased amount of $263.61 million.

      The public sector wage bill is up from $634.29 million estimated for 2010-2011 to $690.08 million in the coming financial year. The document also revealed that grants to public institutions were projected to drop from the $675.96 million for 2010-2011 to $619.90 million for the coming year

      Some will ask where is the valus added to the economy to have a public service the size of what exist. Some transformation must begin to take place where people who go to UWI don’t have a comfort level with accepting a job as a clerical officer for life. Is this why we spend hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve?

      The comment is meant to knock the system moreso than the civil servant who is acting out how they have been educated and enculturated.


  3. I when to my pharmacy yesterday to purchase my medication and there was a robust discussion going on, I listened attentively to some middle to old people talking about what the new drug system is costing them. The overwhelming agreement is that they are sorry they voted in this government and it will not happen again. many of them had to pay between $20 to $40. for the dispensing of their medication.


  4. Isn’t it ironic that in a thread about “Mendicancy” Scout writes that Seniors are complaining about the Drug dispensing fee and regret that they voted for the present Gov’t.

    If peoples’ expectations are that the Gov’t will provide I wonder which political party will campaign on an austerity platform and encourage everyone to live within their means?

    This culture of “freeness” is so embedded in the Bajan psyche that it will be hard to adjust and when we are asked to pay the price we balk and complain. (see recent budget proposals).

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.


  5. Humm david it does bring about the question as to why it is increasing so much. That about 10% increase i don’t remember any deal for so much so are they hiring more people after saying the service is to large as is ?


  6. The problem here is. Do the public pharamacy have enough resources where the increase flow of people won’t increase the backlog by more than a few hours ? I don’t think any do. Is the cost of drug service not covered in your taxes ? It was before. so why am i being double charge for drug service ? Therein lies the problem with charging people for. People see it as double taxation. If you want expedient service you go to private pharmacy. People equating time with money will do so time and again because the wait in public pharmacy is too long. So of course you would complain is some one is charging you for drug service in taxes then coming and charge you a separate fee for it again.


  7. @Sargeant

    Sometimes one is left to wonder if Bajans understand/appreciate the entitlement culture which now pervades our country. Education paid for, Healthcare paid for, transportation heavily subsidized and the list is long.

    Even the great Welfare Country, the UK is cutting back. Now we read a fat public sector wage bill which had to be trimmed with the 8% cut has now been erased, backraised and now set to be increased further. We must be mad.

    Where is the change in fiscal strategy and equally as important individual behaviours to align with real world reality?

    Have we truly become educated fools.


  8. Scout
    It would be a good thing if the DLP lose the Government but not for your reasons that they do not know what they are doing.
    The old and young people who believe this country can continue on this path of gi mah, gi mah, gi mah would come to realize under the BLP that there is nothing they can do to stop the rising cost of living or increasing deficits if strong actions are not taken to restructure the economy.
    How can we sustain the civil service wage bill? Can we do that by giving seniors free medicines, free bus fares, free water, free electricity, free geriatric hospitals and free everything.
    Can we go on the way of paying money for education from nursery to tertiary?
    The BLP moved the employment in the Civil service to the level that it is at right now. No government who wants to win can cut it.
    In order to get its deficit down Great Britain has laid off so many civil servants, soldiers and police. They even got rid of their aircraft carriers.
    Did you hear the program on Sunday SCOUT where seniors have thousands of dollars of drugs in medicine cabinets and keep getting without taking them?
    Scout take your head out of the sand.


  9. So you trying to tell me that it is ok for DEM to tax we to death in order to pay the ever increasing army of occupation.
    How come that today, in the worst recession ever, dem is the only people that sure dem gine got a job next month and de next one after dat?

    I doan get nutten free from nuh guvment, I duss pay taxes, my family duss pay taxes, my friends duss pay taxes. Get de drift.
    I recently heard de one call Ben bragging that dem caught some business man trying to avoid paying de full amount of taxes on some ribs. Guess how much de taxes was? 400% or some such number. You could believe that?

    You tink um easy living bout here wid all o dem taxes. Free my a55.


  10. Barbados finds itself in a bad place. Until we get some traction on the entrepreneurial we have model in Barbados where the private sector depends on public sector for its survival. You send home people in the private sector or reduce pay you hurt the private sector by dampening economic activity.

    We need to change the model.


  11. I might be wrong, but i am still willing to bet that the reluctance in pruning public sector jobs has little to do with fears of “dampening economic activity” and more to do with enhancing chances of victory in the next mother of all battles.

    Regular, and in some instances massive, increases in taxation will have the same effect that the stated policy is supposed to prevent.

    How long can the inevitable be avoided?


  12. Charlie
    If anyone head is in the sand, I believe it’s yours and maybe Sargeant’s, all I did is to report what the conversation was about, if you read the article properly, you would have read that I purchased my medication: purchase means paid for. successive governments have over the years assist the populace to develop this culture. I heard a lady who is working said that every month she carries her BL&P bill to a certain politician to have it paid, she was cursing him because he stopped paying the water bill too. It is the politicians from both sides of the fence who have encourage the people in this stupidness, neither of the parties is willing to bite the bullit and say enough is enough. In a recession this party has given scool children the right to “joy ride” for free in the Transport Board buses, you should see the Springer School children who would assemble at the bottom of Gov’t Hill for hours and wait for a bus to get to school, many of those in established positions today walked miles to school on mornings and walked back on evening, now they are encouraging these childern in lazyness ands this is only one shool, the same thing happens all over the island.


  13. I have not witness it personally but I was told that it is usual for shool children to call each other while on the bus and they can arrange to get off one bus and into another at will on any one trip from Speightstown to Bridgetown eveytime they switch buses it is costing the Transport Board money by issuing a ticket. All this contributes to the mendecantcy that is developed in these children from early.

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