A Heather Cole Column – Forward Ever, Backward Never!
In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope and it was the winter of despair we had everything before us, we had nothing before us we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”
All these things seem to encapsulate Barbados now. Having a change of government does not mean that the problems facing the island will instantaneously disappear. The era of Fruendel Stuart did indeed shock us who were adults prior to 2009 and what occurred was not the Barbados that we had grown to know. Our winter of despair is upon us as the IMF has not only knocked at our door, but it has entered where we dwell setting conditions under which we must live. It is still a season of darkness as stifling taxation is still upon us. It is the age of foolishness as our wanton youth have lost the discipline associated with growing up under strict parentage in Barbados. For most, it was the worst of times as all they could see was that we were going the other way, backwards.
Yet now, we are in another season, a season of light in which we will aspire to create the best of times. For having learned the hard way, this season is our age of wisdom in which we will make decisions, even complex decisions to correct the past. This season is now our spring of hope to go forward and lay a new foundation for Barbados that entails all that we dreamed of and more. We must build a new foundation for Barbados not only for economic prosperity but to redefine ourselves as a people.
What Dickens did not say is that in the worst of times, the vision for the best of times is formed. We now have a golden opportunity to build a new Barbados. It cannot always remain a dream to have one Barbados and not two; where governance is steady and pragmatic not chaotic; where laws are not discriminatory; where the place of our birth or where we live determine our place in society and where there is generational wealth for all not only the rich. We can dismantle the stranglehold of the old colonial vanguard with its discriminatory laws, its limitations for wealth creation for the poor and its stagnant education system.
After finding ourselves at the crossroads, twice in 88 years, it makes one wonder if we have not learned that economic success is the key to our well-being. However, it was the politics of the post-independence era that failed us this time. Does this mean that we can only adequately plan for 30 year spans or that each generation will have a fundamental crisis at hand? One thing that we must realize is that even in our darkest hour, there is an opportunity, but we must have the capabilities to discern it.
On the 4 corners of our foundation must underlie values that our success depends upon, namely Integrity, Accountability, Leadership, Equality and Justice. Political service must be viewed as a sacred trust that the people have in those who govern them, never expecting betrayal. However, on the other side of that trust must be the highest levels discipline in our workforce both public and private and; now more so than ever to execute the rebuilding of Barbados.
We need a new model to create and redistribute wealth. The present model with a few minority business men owning all the wealth is to the detriment of Barbados. With their billions of dollars earned off the backs of the tax payers, none of them have offered to rescue the economy and prevent the country from undergoing the harsh conditionalities that will be brought by the IMF. A national bank is required, so too the further growth or expansion of the credit unions, building of cooperatives in every industry and other means. The working class must transform their vision from owning a piece of the rock to owning a business on the rock. Government also has a role to play in the creation of an enabling environment that all may prosper.
There must be a business plan for Barbados which not only includes financial targets to manage our debt but targets for investment, investing in our workforce, fixing our crumbling infrastructure, transforming our public transportation system, creating a sustainable environment, transforming our educational system, renovating and expanding our healthcare system, transforming the delivery of social services, revolutionizing all aspects of housing, removing poverty from the landscape, ultimately the creation of a new constitution, empowerment of the people, the power of recall for politicians, a well-regulated court system, access to and affordability of technology and transforming our communities to redefine the people. Finally, we must not forget to build the bridge that has been missing for over 300 years, the bridge to Africa to reconnect to our distant past.
We must all arise and build not only economically or politically but socially as well. Society and the family structure is in turmoil. We have persons who came to age in the last decade that know more about feting and with more time on their hands than is rational. Some of them do not know the last time they saw the inside of a church, read a bible or even had guidance from a family member. We have a big problem if these are to be the elders of the next generation. We have seriously missed the opportunity to shape their minds and someone else has shaped it in lawlessness. One thing that I have learned from Hitler is that the youth must be a focal part of any political agenda. I lament that in the country’s darkest hour that there are people feting away. Is the revenue to be earned form Corp Over and its activities more meaningful than preventing societal decay? Where is the church?
We must put a political, social and economic system in place that not only survives turmoil in the next 30 years but the next 100 years and beyond. To achieve revolutionary changes in Barbados, the task for the present government is not to reshape the country in its present mold but to rebuild Barbados on a new foundation. To achieve this, we need the best in every field metaphorically, the best surveyors, architects, builders and building materials. We also need visionaries, leaders and legal minds to achieve this massive feat which is to produce not another gem but a metropolis in the Caribbean.