A Heather Cole Column – Barbados: Politically Independent Country-Economically Dependent People
I may have finally understood the concept of independence in Barbados. It is of a country which gained political independence from Great Britain in 1966 but somehow the teetered yoke of dependence remains firmly affixed to the necks of its people. I hope the sociologists and political scientists from the UWI will weigh in on this one.
We have had a long history of dependence. It was shaped by the slave masters who created a dependence for food and shelter during slavery. It was enhanced by the British Government during the colonial era and for the past 52 years that dependence has been enshrined by the successive political administrations which ruled after 1966. So, for the past 52 years politics has shaped our economic dependence.
The Bizzy Williams, Cow Williams, Mark Maloney’s and the lot all depend on each political administration for lucrative contracts and sweet heart deals to become successful. They have benefited from dependence. The poor and the middle class depend on the government for a job which technically ends up as a trap as they deny themselves independence.
The dependence on government jobs is a trap for life but most see it as job that belongs to them until they retire. That job security has instilled the dependency syndrome. They have failed to understand that they are not economically independent.
The two-party system has also been to our detriment. We have developed a penchant for political promises and believe that everything should be provided by government and if is not provided by one administration, the other plays a game of bait and switch. We have allowed successive administrations to prevent us from becoming economically independent.
We have not pressed for a referendum to effect change in any area; we are leaving it up to government to make those changes if they want to; we have not agitated for inclusions to be part of the ballot. Our dependency has put our fate in the hands of each administration. Two good cases that we have at present to press for a referendum on are the decriminalization of marijuana and the creation of a new mortgage legislation. Changes in both areas will alter our economic dependence. However, we are waiting patiently, depending on government to makes these changes that we need in its own time frame.
The retrenchment by the present administration has touched a sore nerve, everyone expecting the worse, pondering what people will go home to do, wondering how they will pay their bills, referring to the fact that they have children to send to school, being over reactionary about last- in first- out scenarios, the union are on high alert and predicting even more job losses. It is as if the skies were falling but all we are hearing are echoes of dependency.
It is the same dependency that has led us to be thinkers and not doers, to make abject criticism of everyone who has a difference of opinion, to discourage new ways to doing old things. We display the apathy of being stuck in rut when we are intelligent enough to do better. We have become so dependent on government that it has taken what has occurred during the past 10 years for some of us to admit that government does not have all the right answers.
Ultimately the one question that must be asked is if the only persons to receive economic freedom on November 30th, 1966 was the political class. Our success or failure should not depend on the political actions of government; we must become economically independent by becoming involved in activities to make us economically independent. We must change our mindset to understand that if ever a national retrenchment occurs, it is viewed as an opportunity for a people to change the course of their history.