Cultural Norms and Development

Submitted by The Mahogany Coconut Think Tank and Watchdog Group
There is a need to align cultural norms with development.

There is a need to align cultural norms with development.

It is now obvious that there is a cultural hurdle to overcome if the Caribbean is to move forward. So often we have restricted our discussion of culture to the entertainment or superficial level that we fail to recognize and understand that the economy itself is cultural in nature. In other words the cultural norms of a society have a direct effect on all the factors that contribute to the economy.

One of our greatest cultural problems is our approach to time. Buses run late, we get to work late and then we realise that thousands of man hours are lost because of this simple fact. Without a proper public transport system, it is virtually impossible to improve productivity. Hence, those who live in societies where things “run” on time, immediately realise the importance of organising their business in order to catch the train or bus that they need to get to a particular point. The result is that time is not lost and productivity is less threatened.

We all recall when we used to get days off to attend test cricket! Nothing wrong with supporting our cricketers, but in those days during five day tests, the entire Caribbean came to a standstill. It was just the way we did things. Little did we realize the negative results of being five days behind our business while we enjoyed our cricket? We also enjoyed shopping days for Christmas. Imagine getting time off at the peak period of commercial activity.

During carnival and other festivals, we are known to “fire de wuk’ while we party. Once again, there is nothing wrong with partying but we can no longer afford to fete for a whole week and expect productivity to rise. The simple truth is that the world has caught up with us and the days of waiting two weeks for a passport or a week for a birth certificate, should have been things of the past, if we intend to go forward.

This leads us to the failure of governments to approve business opportunities quicker and to grant permission for land development and other matters at a faster rate. All of our islands have courts that are backed up with cases as far as two decades ago. Unfortunately, no serious business person is going to wait a year or two to get a development approve. We still have land sales and the settlement of estates taking years to complete. Against this background, both local and international business is running at the speed of molasses.

We need to retain our uniqueness without squandering real development. We can no longer expect the world to wait on us. The information highway almost by –passed us and we have been playing catch up now for nearly three decades. Our agro based industries are a half century behind and our marketing efforts on the international front are not stellar. We have to make a mental shift and unfortunately there are very few leaders in the region, who seem capable of inspiring us at this time.

It is possible to keep our rum shops; our closeness with neighbors; a vibrant community spirit; our carnivals and festivals; enjoy our cricket and arrive late for parties and dances. However when it comes to managing our economies and developing our people , time is of the essence, and we must transact business at what are considered international standards. Time waits on no man and the Caribbean must accept it will not wait on us.

The world has caught up with the Caribbean and ready or not it is here.

23 thoughts on “Cultural Norms and Development

  1. As someone living and running a Caribbean property business out of the UK, I have been saying the very same thing for some considerable period of time (nine years to be precise).

    As much as I love most of my associates in the Caribbean, the pace at which many work does not lend itself to the level of efficiency that is expected in today’s fast moving world. As a believer that “the early birds catch the best worms”, working at a slower pace will only lead to lost business and crumbs by default.

    Being able to separate cultural practices from business practices is key.

  2. There is so much crap in this article that I won’t waste much time on it but it is astounding that 280,000 people on 166 sq.miles achieved so much with no natural resources.

    • @Hants

      Barbados is a country built on the back of preferential tariffs and quotas. Now that these shelters are removed we have started to piss in the wind.

  3. Bruggadung Johnson have a humongous set of balls to call black workers lazy. Where have we heard this before, oh yes from the Jim Crow dye in the wool deep south USA racists. Pray tell what work does Johnson do? I raise up with Johnson we come from the same area. The days of Johnson life from he merrymen days was occupied travelling the world, drinking booze and chasing skirts, young blondes if you please.
    The guy Steve Stoute and Johnson are one two at the Olympic Assoc flying around the world first class at somebody else’s expense. The fella never did a full day’s work in his life. He is the last person who should cast disparaging remarks at poor black people.

  4. Now Tom Dick and Harry will now come out and refute what Bruggadown had stated about Bajan workers. There is some truth in what the man is saying.

    Bajans workers USED to be productive during the 60’s -80’s. We had a vibrant manufacturing community we were exporting to Trinidad and Jamaica, Tourism was the TOP DAWG.

    Something happened and I can’t exactly say what BUT there was a change of attitude and ethics. Perhaps it was too much education :-), too much food, too much whining, too many brass bowl politicians. Not only had the quality of work changed but look at the quality of our politicians. Poor rakey crop! Look at the pool that businesses must choose from. No one wants to work on the farms any more.

    Everyone was told to get a degree and a job will be given to you. Politicians told the electorate “vote for me and I will give you a job”. No one had to work hard to get something once you knew someone or voted for someone. And if the bossman tell you something you don’t like the doctor is always there to give some sick leave. Don’t talk if there is a show pon the hill and peoples got to work that weekend. Work will come another day BUT not that day of the show. Now that the fringe benefits are being eroded things getting ugly and uglier. HOW DARE BRUGGADOWN SPEAK THE TRUTH!

  5. Some bajan workers are lazy
    Some employers are no frigging good and provide the most basic conditions for their employees who they treat worse than slaves.
    Employers need to clean up their act, it would trickle down to the people
    Down with nasty minded Employers
    Up with workers being treated properly

  6. It is open season on the workforce. with all its inefficiencies the country is still the envy and bettered tructured than some f our neighbouring islands. If correction is necessary their is enough blame to go around. and most of it should be put at the feet of govt.

  7. @David[BU]

    “The world has caught up with the Caribbean…” speaks to a perspective where the rays of light converged here like in a concave lens.

    It ascribes a kind position to Barbados’ position on the global timeline of progress

    I tend to believe this analogy too kindly of the actuality and would more so be inclined to use the allegory of our island being a runner in a relay race, who for a brief period, post independence, kept apace with the other runners in that leg of the race but got caught up with the adulation and cheering of the onlooking crowd, dropped the baton, and now incredulously stand and raise their hands in the a t of self praise, while the other runners continue to their destination.

    Tell me this David[BU] what is the genetic marker that takes these indolent Bajans, the ones who now are late because it rained, or they were 6 thirtying last night or some other
    National excuse for inefficiency and incompetence, why is it when we take the same indolent denizen and put them in Amerca dat all these practices disappear as if my Lord and Christ had come and said “be you healed of this affliction?”

    For indeed, like if it is the mystery of The Christ ‘s phrase of “Lazarus come forth”, for had this Magi just said come forth, sine name, all would have come forth, we here in BIM seem to be party to such miracles when we wufless vandagers leave Bulbados, go to the USofA and transcend to being the epitome of efficiency, reliability and resoluteness.

    This is indeed a mystery which leads to to believe in a Baffian Conspiracy Plot that de white people dem in dem cosmopolitan countries does put steroids en ting in de water and that is what makes us Wuffless Bajans change

    What do you think?

  8. So you guys can also take some of the blame as simple parasites who for 14 yrs kept making the same mistake at the ballot box….Now all of a sudden like a person having a giant headache would like it to disappear without taking necessary steps… Where there is no vision we all perish…….

  9. @David[BU]

    Was with the sheep.

    Off Course, of course.

    It just brings to the fore, the measure of Errol W Barrow.

    A man who, without any pathway in the conventional sense, was able to craft out a road for this country while all around him the “uncle toms” spoke of doom and gloom for seeking independence from Rule Britania.

    Now, before AC and CCC get on the “DLP are the forever saviours” band wagon and extrapolate his pellucid vision to the subsequent and current clowns, on both sides of the divide, i would just wish to say that he was singularly a man of vision, who, for the times that he lived, crafted a stolid passage for us, post independence.

    Therein ends my praise because after 20 years, that momentum diminished and subsequent stewards, and Stuarts, could not take up the mantle.

    It brings to mind Brad Pitt/Achilles’ memorable question, post killing the Thessalonian Boaguillus, “is there no one else?”

    And, in keeping with the deafening silence that our leader Fumble is noted for, the silence and years of flailing economy bear testimony to the tacit, affirmative response that there is none

  10. I see some comments suggesting that “workers are lazy” is a great slur.
    I also saw mention of the tardiness of the court system but I would expand the definition of workers to include the broad swathe of the population – politicians, judges, lawyers, civil servants, business people, their staffs and right down to the day labourer and point to their sloth-like performance.

    It’s a society where productivity, efficiency and expeditiousness simply are not words of the vocabulary so no measure of these key factors has ever been undertaken, but have been supplanted by glib statements of how wonderful things are or how downtrodden, set upon and exploited Barbados is.

    I have been taken to task for citing Singapore and have been told that one day Singaporeans will wake up and realise that they are being exploited and when that happens, they’ll become as wise as Barbadians.
    Fat chance of that happening as the citizens of Singapore has seen the great benefits their work ethic has brought them.

    The corporations that have set up research centres and manufacturing facilities in Singapore plus their thriving local industries happen because they are an industrious and hard working nation whose system of education is not known for turning out duds who are as useless as three speed dishcloths.
    They graduate with skills and qualities that are very useful to those companies at home and those from abroad that need their skills.

    I was even pointed to a propaganda article showing the plight of the poor in Singapore. Everywhere has the poor, Singapore less so by a large percentage compared to most places and that’s why you don’t see them crammed in leaky boats trying to reach the rich havens of Australia or Hong Kong as illegal immigrants or refugees.

    Some have cited the lack of freedom to which I can only ask – freedom to do what?
    I hope the answer is not free to be lazy jackasses.

    Sleep is soooooooooo sweeeeeeet!

  11. Brugadung is correct in his observation that we have a culture of slackers. Hasn’t the NISE survey brought this out already?

    We live in a Barbados where an uncertified sick day is regarded as an entitlement. In other words if one has not used up the allotment of uncertified sick days you take them anyway.

  12. workers/ lazy
    civil servants/slackers
    economy /fail
    civil servants/slackers


  13. What about the cultural of not paying bills (reparations), the culture of free labour, the culture of domination of land by a few, the culture of being lackeys to foreign powers, the culture of capitalism as a failed model, the culture of narrow mindedness, the culture of mis-education, the culture of ignorance, the culture of colony, the culture of exalting certain foreigners over locals, the culture of servitude, the culture of serving a white god, the culture of big lies, the culture dependency …………….

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