The uncertainty which has engulfed global economies, especially the USA, continues to provoke anxiety among Barbadians. The USA is acknowledged as the world’s largest economy and this makes Barbados most vulnerable given the Barbados dollar peg to the US dollar and its importance as a source market for tourists, remittances and foreign direct investment. There is so much commentary about the prescriptions required to stabilize the local economy it must be difficult for the regular man to understand it all.
In the USA there is the startling statistic that the gap between the über rich and everyone else is growing or as former “President George W. Bush once quipped at a swanky campaign dinner, “the haves and the have-mores.” In a nutshell while 90% of Americans have had to endure flat incomes over the last 10 years, the top 10 percent or the super-rich have suffered no such problem. Here is what a CNN report revealed: In 2009, the richest 10% of Americans accounted for about half the nation’s wealth. Narrow that focus a bit further, and the trend is even more alarming. The top 0.1% — those who make at least $2 million each year — controlled 10% of the economy. This is a nasty revelation.
It is important to shatter a myth which many Barbadians and others have about the economic sustainability of the US lifestyle model which is built on consumption behaviour. The middleclass in the USA for example owes a great debt of gratitude to easy access to credit which readily feeds its insatiable desire for consumer durables. The adjunct to the argument has been the fickle architecture of the US housing market which the current recession has decimated and exposed the DDD -/+ personal financial positions which before the recession were masquerading as BBB-/+ and upwards.
The current global economic difficulties have exposed a ton of interesting arguments and observations. One observation which BU finds interesting is how do we define who or what is middleclass. An interesting definition registered while monitoring the news recently, the commentator suggested that to be middleclass is defined more by an attitude rather than by earnings and material trappings. The behaviour and leadership by the middleclass is crucial to reshaping our society but it maybe too late.
Barbados is of this world and is a country greatly influenced by North American culture. What is unravelling in the USA and the UK should be used as a wakeup call for what can happen when we become too wound up by an agenda driven by economics and materialism. Some scoffed at the message, Crime and Violence, of recent vintage is the call to build a society over and above an economy. In both cases the truth of the two messages have been hijacked to the point where the credibility in the messages have long been compromised.
One senses we have reached a critical juncture in Barbados as is the case the world. There is the pain currently being suffered by Barbados as it tries to assimilate into a globalized world. A world where the ‘village-life’ which characterized Bajan society has all but disappeared, but to what?
Why should Bajans not sell their asses if there is nothing else to sell?