Time to Think Clear and Straight Caswell
Submitted by DAVID COMISSIONG, President, Clement Payne Movement
IF EVER THERE WAS A TIME for clear and principled thinking in Barbados, that time is now!
I would therefore like to publicly say to newly appointed Senator Caswell Franklyn and to all other Barbadians who – like him – may believe that governmental policies to restore free tertiary education at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and to increase non-contributory old age pensions are signs of largess emanating from a governmental administration that is acting as if it is “awash with cash”, that they are barking up the wrong tree !
The reality is that the fundamental economic and social development strategy of Barbados is to base our national developmental efforts firmly on the foundation of a well educated and trained population.
The basic concept is that our nation’s economic development will arise from our people’s educational and cultural development, and vice versa. Thus, these two spheres of development (our nation’s economic development and our people’s educational/cultural development) are symbiotic and must mutually propel each other.
It is therefore critical to our country’s economic welfare that we ensure that a sizable proportion of our young people be exposed to tertiary level education!
When the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration first imposed the payment of tuition fees on Barbadians attending the UWI, they assured the country that this change of educational policy would NOT result in any fall off of Barbadians accessing university level education.
Well, they were wrong! And immediately after the change of policy well over 4,000 Barbadians dropped out of the UWI system! (The university administration was subsequently able to engage in measures that reduced the number to some 3,200.)
A country like Barbados simply cannot afford to maintain an educational policy that — on an ongoing basis– is causing some 3,200 citizens to be deprived of university level education!
Restoring free university education for Barbadians at the UWI is therefore not a sign of irresponsible largess, but rather is a pressing economic developmental necessity for our nation.
Now on to this matter of increasing the amount of the paltry non-contributory pensions that are currently given to the most vulnerable segment of the Barbadian population.
We Barbadians must insist on Barbados always being a “civilized and humane” society. And in a civilized and humane society, when economic conditions become difficult, the poor and destitute are NOT abandoned! In fact, it is precisely in such difficult times that a Government must show its true worth as the principal defender of the “general welfare” of the people.
In the final analysis, governance is all about determining priorities, and for sure, the welfare of the most destitute and vulnerable of our old age pensioners must be deemed a priority.
I would like to conclude by advising my friend, Senator Caswell Franklyn, to resist the temptation to try to profit at the expense of his fellow trade union leaders in the NUPW and the BWU.
The fact of the matter is that it was not that the leadership of the NUPW and the BWU “refused to cooperate with the last government”, but that the last government – the Freundel Stuart administration – refused to cooperate with the trade unions and indeed, with the entire working class!