Last week, Prime Minister Mottley reshuffled Cabinet, against a backdrop of a calamitous convergence of events in 2020, not as a reflection of past performance, but of future need.
Only the dishonest can deny that two years in, Barbados has seen stunning progress from an Administration which promised so much and has thus far appropriately delivered, in three key ways.
Firstly, government set about repairing the previous disastrous decade. Economically, the inclusion of three ministers in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and the high-profile advisors has borne immeasurable fruit in the remarkable turnaround from the precipice of economic collapse to a 6% surplus. William Duguid and Peter Phillips oversaw a significant road repair programme, as well as the purchase of new buses, and Trevor Prescod similarly saw the purchase of garbage trucks, all of which had been long neglected. None can forget the phenomenal speed with which Wilfred Abrahams’ Water Resources Ministry removed sewage from the streets of the South Coast.
Secondly, government responded to present challenges. Edmund Hinkson and subsequently Dale Marshall have overseen a steady and significant decline in most major crime, such as rape, robbery and burglary, though murder remains regrettably stubborn. Under Minister Caddle and Prof. Persuad, there has been an infusion of investment and Dr Greenidge masterminded the balanced, fair and cogent BOSS to respond to our nation’s most pressing challenge. Under John King, government committed $1 million for creatives and sportspersons for digital projects during the challenging COVID period. Abrahams has aggressively sought a resolution to the northern water woes, on which significant work has been done. Neil Rowe supported his minister, Cynthia Forde, who both oversaw increased funding for Welfare over the last two years, and who both played a crucial role in the human response to the social and economic calamity wrought by COVID.
Finally, government has been consistently visionary in charting the future. Abrahams was tasked with implementing Government’s policy to achieve either fossil free or carbon neutrality by 2030, significantly helped by Duguid and Phillips’ purchase of electric buses. Kerrie Symmonds has not only made substantial steps toward rejigging tourism even before the pandemic, but he has also continuously expressed a commitment to the small players in the industry from the taxi operators to the smaller hotels. Dwight Sutherland leaves Small Business with his signature legacy being the implementation of the Trust Loan programme, by which nearly 3,000 small businesses have been given a much-needed boost on the path to wealth creation for ordinary Barbadians, and thus in a real sense, Sutherland, more than any other minister, has overseen a tangible programme to make “black lives matter” in the economic sphere.
Clearly then, much has been done. However, government is not about reminiscing about past success, and Ms Mottley has demonstrated that she is not going to do that. Rather, she has taken the new set of facts which we face, and has made necessary adjustments to position the country to be best able to stave off the effects of the pandemic, as well as build back stronger, as any sensible household or company would.
Therefore, she has wisely introduced Sen. Lisa Cummins to the all-important tourism ministry at this critical time. Sen Cummins has not only been the most successful chairman of the Port, but also accumulated impressive experience in diplomacy, international trade policy, industry building and development policy, all of which are crucial skills for the person at the helm of tourism at this time. Ian Gooding-Edghill also brings with him significant experience after two stints chairing the Transport Board.
Barbadians, all of us, must now join with the PM and also commit to making our own personal adjustments as we go forward. These adjustments can include continued adherence to the COVID protocols, increased economic ingenuity in the potentially rough period ahead, commitment to the maintenance of social order by rejecting the influence of organized crime, so that we do not destroy the precious gains made, increasing your on-the-job economic productivity, caring for our environment and personally committing to reduced carbon footprints, as well as eating well and other measures to maintain health so that we do not become state burdens by continuing the worrying rise of NCDs. Those are but a few of the individual commitments which can be made, so that like the Prime Minister, we can better position ourselves and our country for the future.