Alternate Views – Put Barbados first

Kemar J.D Stuart, Economist and Director Business Development , Finance and Investment Stuart & Perkins Caribbean

Barbados on December 7th will be heading into another IMF program named BERT 2.0. The PM of Barbados said in a recent press conference that next 2023 will be hard for all of us.

Barbadians are in a serious economic pit as the global economy is set to run into turmoil and price inflation will push the cost of living /goods& services to higher as the festive holiday season kicks in.

Minister of Industry Davidson Ishmael recently recommended Bajan consumers to buy local as , as far back at October 2018, government placed VAT on online transactions to encourage local shopping. With NSRL removed local prices were supposed to drop instead they increased. While patriotic by Minister Ishmael the high cost of living in Barbados has been eroding paychecks and savings as people are shopping according to what’s affordable to their pockets.

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In 2022 Barbados government is trafficking in slaves

The former Leader of the Opposition in the Barbados Parliament, Bishop Joseph Atherley, is reported to have questioned why this country continues to function under a state of emergency. In his response, the learned Attorney General, Dale Marshall, attempted to be condescending to the Bishop, rather than give an explanation that could stand up to scrutiny. I would not dignify his response by repeating it here. I would only say that his reasons made no sense as usual.

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BLP Win 30-0, Again

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in a surprising result won all 30 seats again in a snap election called 18 months before constitutionally due by Mia Mottley.

In the coming weeks there will be robust debate about how our democracy optimally serves Barbadians with a muted dissenting voice. One may argue a healthy democracy requires a strident dissenting voice. Barbados is traveling an uncharted path given the 2018 and 2022 general election results and BELOW 50% turnout (anecdotal). In the coming weeks our attention will turn to government’s management of COVID 19, the economy, the health of political opposition and a few other key issues.

Whither the political opposition?

The blogmaster congratulates the BLP on the win and offers the advice – to whom much is given, much is expected.

Whatup Bajans?

The countdown to January 19, 2021 and so far Barbadians have been treated to a lackluster campaign. The biggest issue so far has been the lack of opportunity for Covid 19 infected patients to vote, that is until the strategic revelations from former Senator Lucille Moe last weekend. 

For those who didn’t understand Moe’s prolong absences from the Senate, now we know. There was a plot to be hatched. The blogmaster deems her behaviour to be dishonest and unethical. She had a difference of opinion with the prime minister- or so it seems- and refused to take the honourable decision to resign. Mia Mottley is not blameless, ministers and senators serve at the pleasure of the prime minister, Moe should have been fired. The blogmaster gives no credence to feeble rebuttals that she submitted excuses to the President to the Senate. Citizens must continue to find ways to hold elected officials accountable. The struggle is real.

While the Moe plot appears to have fully delivered 2 days before the general elections, former minister of finance Chris Sinckler decided to enter the political space for the first time since the last general election in May, 2018. The stars have aligned and the winner is…?

At a time educated and sensible Barbadians should be consumed with exacting intelligible utterances from prospective representatives in parliament, instead we have been treated to the same old dog and pony show. 

  • Have we has good explanations why six decades after independence we have been unable to enact and operationalize transparency and integrity legislation in Barbados?
  • Have we had good explanation why the NIS Scheme has been mismanaged by successive governments to the point where taxpayers will be asked to suffer more sacrifice to ensure its viability?
  • Have we had a good explanation why after the long talk about establishing a Creative Cultural Industries framework this sector remains uninspired and rudderless?
  • Have we had a good explanation why decades of Auditor General reports have been ignored by successive governments?
  • Have we had a good explanation why a small island developing state located in the idyllic tropical Caribbean has been unable to aggressively retrofit and integrate renewable energy by utilizing the natural resources of sun and wind?
  • Have we had an intelligent national debate about pensions for members of parliament and in particular the public service which is unfunded?
  • What about the urgent need for a comprehensive waste management strategy to align with the utterances about a commitment to the environment?

The point of this submission is to remind fellow Barbadians that we benefit from making smart decisions. If we continue to be mesmerized and entertained by the dog and pony shows performing to the same scripts, there will be no apotheoses.

A Citizenry Contented to be Baffled by BS

Let’s see which tranches were defaulted and exactly the amount. And what value the “books” placed on the asset(s). All neatly hidden, because we can never see what those entities who received the “loans” did with that money, other than defaulting on repayment. Everybody got bailed out except the local taxpayer.

NorthernObserver (call for transparency by BU commenter in the Paradise/Clearwater Bay matter)

Both major political parties continue to baffle the citizenry with ‘bullshit’ and we accept it. Is Minister Ryan Straughn telling he does not have a recent valuation of the Paradise property to share? Why have we allowed another crisis to go to waste? 

At the best of times the Barbados economy was deemed to be fragile because it is a tourism_service oriented economy which makes it ultra vulnerable to what economists warn exogenous attacks from the global economy.

Post-2018 the incumbent Barbados Labour Party (BLP) after winning the general election, recruited a bevy of financial consultants supported by a 26 member Cabinet. Immediately proceeded to opt for a selected default (SD) on foreign and domestic debt. Fate has intervened and the so-called fiscal space created has been eradicated by a raging pandemic made worse by a 2 week period of ash fall from an active volcano next door on St.Vincent.

Acts of nature have tested the adaptability of man from the beginning of time. This is what we must do, adapt.

Is it the imagination of a lowly blogmaster we have allowed our priorities to shift to ‘less pressing’ matters at this time? All local newsfeeds are choked with traffic about transition to a referendum by 30 November 2021 and the consideration by government- supported by private sector- to regulate a mandatory vaccination policy. Further, we had a march reported to be upwards to three thousand people registering public concern. The news from government and Central Bank of Barbados that there is a hole in government’s revenues of 600 million dollars has not registered the same level of protestations from John Public. Is it fully understood the success of expertly managing the economy of Barbados directly impacts quality of life of individuals, households; food on the table, jobs etc? 

The blogmaster smiled this week while listening to a Canada-based Barbadian economist beseeching the government to decrease excise/ad valorem taxes to buffer increasing cost of imports. The fight to satisfy our taste for imported goods and services to feed the consumption behaviour continues.

Covid 19 virus feeding the pandemic has had an uncompromising impact on economies of developing countries like Barbados. Unlike so-called developed countries, scarce resources have had to be redirected to defend against Covid 19. For Barbados the issue is made more acute because of the pre-Covid 19 state of the economy. 

The structure of the local economy means there is limited prospect of achieving real growth in the short to medium term. The weight of years of debt accumulation means more significant fiscal adjustments – that will be painful – have to be made. Coming after about 15 years of economic fatigue this will spur social fallout. The time has come and gone for our leaders, political and social to govern, to lead. A recommended first step in that process is to immediately desist from baffling the citizenry with bullshit and set about the task of setting realistic expectations.

A word to the wise should be sufficient.

Right from Wrong

Once upon a time to determine right and wrong seemed a very straight forward undertaking for Barbadians. The majority of Barbadians identified with shared values that anchored a behaviour to infuse a culture uniquely and satisfyingly Bajan. The result was a harmonious society- a key element to our brand and identity.

The world has become a complex place to navigate for governments and individuals. There are the neoliberals. There are the socialists. There are the relativists. Not to be ignored are the centrists. All operating under a system of democracy. Our ability as a people to reconcile has resulted in a polarizing effect to how we manage our business, hardly ever room for compromise. In the last two decades the fight by groups advocating economic and social equality has created intractable positions, leading to what many are forecasting – a dystopian world. 

The truth is, Barbados has been battling a crisis of cultural identity in recent years. In the 70s Trinidadians and other nationalities flocked to Barbados, impressed by our well ordered society. Those were the days we ran a balanced national budget. Nowadays, important decisions are being made for us because successive governments have racked up unconscionable debt to satisfy consumer demand, restricting government’s capacity to initiate needed developmental initiatives because of the lack of fiscal space. We have discussed many times how we have surrendered Bajan culture to be invaded from over in away.

The previous government charted a roadmap to aggressively develop the renewable sector. A decade later why are fossil fuelled vehicles not the main offering for consumers? Why has government not issued a stop-sell on the procurement by the public sector of fossil powered vehicles? At minimum impose a cap if there is concern about facilitating a smooth transition? Involved in the growth of the renewable sector is the ability to influence EMERA’s roadmap to generate and distribute a fit for purpose power system that meshes with a national strategic plan. David Simmons in the 70s as the member of parliament for St. Thomas promised Barbadians Mount Stinkeroo would be shutdown. In 2014 the former government attempted – through covert and questionable means – to foist a plasma gasification plant on Barbadians the likes never seen anywhere on the globe. It is 2021 and there is no project in the works to address waste disposal in a sustainable way. This includes an inadequate sewerage system. 

Year after year we read the Auditor General’s reports that expose incompetence and malfeasance by public sector agencies often times acting in collusion with private sector players, yet nothing is done to hold the various players accountable. The most important fund on the island is being used as government’s ATM with no pressure from Barbadians to produce timely audited financials and actuarial reports. At election time there will be the usual huff and puff then forgotten until the next time.

These are a few examples of a failing governance system and the degree Barbadians have abdicated roles and responsibilities the system of democracy practised affords us.

The permeable serves to introduce the big question to the new Barbadian. Do we have what it takes to shift trajectory? 

The Great Hornswoggle

Recently the blogmaster observed a sign that announced the takeover of Montrose supermarket by behemoth Massy. A caller to a talk show asked what does it mean if all of our successful businesses are being ‘huffed’ by ‘outside’ interest? Education and health are the top two allocations in the national budget.

Minister of Youth Dwight Sutherland recently announced a $100,000 anti violence campaign targeting gangs. DLP candidate for St. George North Floyd Reifer responded with a counter-call to implement community sports programs targeting young men in order to arrest crime. The blogmaster was reminded to double check the definition of generational time which typically ranges from 22 to 33 years. 

On another blog a question was posted – why have successive Black governments failed to execute policies and programs to unlock the full potential of Black Barbadians? We forget that the relationship between political and economic classes is greatly influenced by the economic agenda of those who own capital.

Public outrage at the release of the Trojans Riddims video interpreted by many Barbadians as glorifying gun violence, mirrored similar outrage at the release of the Auditor General listing malfeasance and incompetent management of public finances. The blogmaster suspects similar outrage WHEN the next NIS actuarial report eventually is made public. The last actuarial review was in 2017 and dealt with the 2012-2014 period?

Great fanfare was made of the arrival of 10 new water trucks, this was followed by the news several BWA pumping stations were knocked offline by an electrically outage caused by a freak weather event. In the classroom we are still taught man’s basic needs are food, shelter and water. Have we missed the boat to innovate and aggressively integrate food production with the tourism sector? Mark Maloney delivered The GROTTO, Villages at Coverley and of recent there is HOPE at Chancery and Lancaster to satisfy high demand for housing solutions.

It does not matter if our trade unions go to sleep at the switch, in the adversarial form of government practised in Barbados, we are fortunate to have two Labour Parties. Barbadians on the tropical sunny isle are encouraged to protest the high price of imported commodities including gas at the pump and take consolation from the feedback of the IMF.

Barbados has made good progress in implementing its Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) plan to restore fiscal and debt sustainability, rebuild reserves, and increase growth…have helped rebuild confidence in the country’s macroeconomic framework. However, a virtual standstill in the tourism sector during the pandemic took a significant toll in 2020, with the economy contracting by 18 percent.

Fifth Review Under the Extended Arrangement, Request for Waiver of Nonobservance of Performance Criterion, and Modification of Performance Criteria-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Barbados


Submitted Observing

Things are so out of whack recently that I think we have gone haywire. Let me just toss a few random disjointed thoughts out there to get a real real feel for where we are right now.

  1. Persons on bail for vicious murders…BUT…end up committing others after
  2. Local parties and fetes are restricted…BUT…visitors can plan 2 months ahead of time and party soon with wild abandon
  3. Large outcry over the Trojan Riddim…BUT…and even larger outcry over the outcry over the Trojan Riddim
  4. MAM says take down the Riddim AND apologise…BUT…so far 166 thousand views, 3000 likes and Sunday School still wukking
  5. NUPW elected to represent workers…BUT….NUPW has to call in the police to save itself
  6. Minister boasts that cruise ships coming…BUT…positive cases still showing up on liners abroad
  7. We say the children under severe pressure…BUT…we force the same children to do Common Entrance
  8. Auditor General report speaks of problems…BUT…not a peep or pang from the GoB or BLP about it
  9. Cruise ships mashup Carlisle Bay coral…BUT…Minister says no problem he will plant it back
  10. Road tax removed to supposedly ease consumers….BUT……gas prices (and said tax) increasing every single month
  11. Hotel workers cannot be forced to take the vaccine…BUT…guests can demand that they do
  12. There is no price gouging they say…BUT…ask any supermarket buyer and you’ll hear different
  13. Four Seasons money written off by government…BUT…the main lawyer and main adviser running the same government coffers currently
  14. Verla’s ready to lead the DLP to next year’s election…BUT…she has to beat a certain Guy first.

See what I tell ya. We Gone Haywire.

I Love You Barbados

It is about two weeks since Barbadians were forced to take cover from the La Soufriere volcano ash fall located in St. Vincent. Many of us were not around to witness a similar event in 1902, however, many recall vividly or vaguely depending on ones age 1979. As the 2021 hurricane season approaches, Barbadians through the years have been spared serious fallout from ‘Acts of God’ and an understandable complacent attitude has taken root. The seriousness of the ongoing La Soufriere event may help to change the attitude.

This morning the blogmaster threw open a window and smiled at the sight of a less grey environs. In fact there was a gratifying sense that the effect of the ash fall had become less of an issue as Barbadians – despite the prevailing economic and COVID 19 related challenges – are getting on with the business of managing respective households the best way they know how.

This morning like many mornings gone the blogmaster scanned the international and regional newsfeeds and smiled a wry smile at the involuntary sigh of satisfaction – the blogmaster would not trade places with any other soul living elsewhere at this moment.


Barbadians, ALL Together NOW!

…The discussion must turn to how can we run a country on 25% less revenue than planned over the next 2 years. It does not have to come to layoffs either. It can come from improved tax collection, greater efficiency etc. It does not have to be a case of just “sending home people”…

BU Commenter: John A

What has has been weighing on the blogmaster’s mind in recent weeks you ask?

In light of the Covid 19 pandemic most economies in the world have been negatively affected whether service based, commodity driven or combination of the two. The result is that citizens will have to make sacrifices until ‘normalcy’ is achieved. This is particularly true for the most vulnerable people in society – the indigent and sick.

The 500 million dollar projected shortfall in government’s budget as a consequence of the prevailing adverse economic conditions is a reality not many Barbadians have come to grips if one listens to public discussion. Made more acute the country is suffering from economic fatigue after a severe debt restructure and a decade or more of economic wutlessness.

Obviously government has a moral obligation to find ways to keep workers employed. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that changes – especially if unplanned – to the tax base will negatively impact revenues therefore compromising government’s financial obligations to pay for public goods and services.

Government’s ability to collect taxes is also affected by a performing private sector. If the private sector contracts for any reason by shutting down businesses or sending home workers, contributions to government’s tax/NIS revenues will adversely impact finances. Covid 19 has created the perfect challenge for all governments including Barbados.

Having mentioned the economic and fiscal hurdles facing the country, it is easy to forget the social challenges that have inevitably resulted to make governing more complex.

The country is currently embroiled in a discussion about the details of how the proposed Barbados Optional Savings Scheme (BOSS) will be implemented. The success of BOSS and other fiscal measures are simply that, short term. If the global economy is lazy to respond to recovery it means SIDs like Barbados will have big problems as it burns cash in hand (reserves) to pay salaries and other unsustainable activities to maintain a reasonable standard of living.  More and more rehashed commentary about how successive governments have built the economy on sand, encourage covert corruption and fuelled a culture of political patronage or a country living above its means will surface. This will make for good political discussion, however, does not make for constructive debate in the unprecedented climate we find ourselves.

The lengthy preamble to the thesis is – as a people are we capable of pivoting from the type of vacuous national discourse we have become accustomed to be replaced by one that is apropos?

A good place to start is to work at disrupting old thought patterns that encourage same old same outcomes. Easier said than done but is must be done if we are to survive as a nation out here in the global rat race.

…Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country…

John F. Kennedy



Our Date With Destiny has Arrived

Submitted by William Skinner

Since the abolition of slavery, the Caribbean region has been heading toward a date with destiny. Many of us have hailed events as defining moments. In most cases those moments lingered a while and then faded into historical reference. The abolition of slavery was a significant moment for our physical being but the scars of mental slavery still shackle us to a belief that we have reached the apex of our civilization.

The rise of the working class in the 1930s and onward to individual state independence, would have further cemented that we had arrived at a stage of development that was almost miraculous. It is a remarkable feat, that we went from slavery to independence in a historically short time. We should therefore be forgiven if we thought: The Strife Is O’er, The Battle Won.”

We were skilful with our limited resources and those countries within the region with more bountiful resources than others, were generous in their assistance toward their often-struggling brothers and sisters. We even forged ahead with regional unity and gave birth to the regional movement known as CARICOM. Outside of the occasional family squabble, the Caribbean has enjoyed longer periods of regional unity than we thought possible. Daily we try our best to develop our collective communities but the realities of individual countries, often forced to act on their own rather than a unified force, remain a monumental challenge.

The date with destiny finally arrived via a vicious carrier or messenger, we now know as COVID-19. The abolition of slavery; rise of the working class; independence, hurricanes and of course the glorious days of dominating the world of cricket, now seem to be fading occurrences as we grapple with the new norm. The COVID-19 has revealed that we have been meticulously unprepared for the date with destiny. AS the new norm descends upon us, there is wide spread panic and we are now bombarded by often weak and visionless speeches by leaders, who in many instances have abandoned common sense. We built our future on sun seekers and international treaties. We are treated like school children being forced to pass tests and grades that often have little or nothing to do with our cultural, social, or economic realities.

In a rather perverse way, we actually attached ourselves to the saying: “Why buy a cow when you can get milk free.” We now face the brutal reality that there is no free milk and we really have no unlimited access to cows we don’t own. Its time to buy our own cows and produce our own milk. It’s time to own the Caribbean farm and take it off the auction block.

As my friend’s grandmother asked him, when he was going through a rough period in his new environment of the USA and was contemplating a return to the island: “Did you come for the improvement or the exchange?”

Our date with destiny has arrived and no iron bird our floating hotel will save us from this brutal reality.

Bajans Abroad Have the Best Eyes and Ears

Submitted by Andrew Nehaul

Many write about tourism being on the way out but few provide any solid ideas or concepts that can be used as an economic substitute. With your permission I would like to change the subject.

I may be wrong but I get the impression that many who visit this site live abroad. Be it the USA, Canada, the UK or other place, they live in what is commonly referred to as a first world country. It does not matter where they live, I am of the opinion that they see and experience technology daily that can help improve the situation in Barbados.

With your permission I will digress. Many years ago when I lived in Barbados, I went to a small company in Rendezvous to get my muffler repaired. While standing there waiting for my car to be fixed, I overheard a conversation  with two young men that I remember to this day.

One man said “I was in Miami last week and you would never guess what I saw”
“No. Tell me” the other replied.
“I saw a white waiter” the first one said.
“No way”

I could not understand what they were talking about as I had recently returned from working in Banff, Alberta, Canada as part of my hotel education course in Vancouver. At the Banff Springs Hotel I worked as a waiter with Canadians of all colours and from all parts of the world. So, to see a white waiter was not new. Later, I understood that for a person who had never left the island and saw only black waiters, seeing a white person working as a waiter must be unique.

A few weeks ago I read that Bizzy Williams and his Company had developed an electric bus which he probably wanted to sell to the Government. I thought to myself that this is not the future for Barbados as we still import fossil fuel to create electricity. Any electric vehicles in most part only increases the import cost and is a drain on foreign exchange. What Bizzy should have done was to develop a garbage truck run on biogas and get the Government to encourage separation of garbage where the organic material is used to create bio gas. Alternatively, use sugar cane for bio energy.

In Europe this is a part of our daily living. We separate garbage and the organic waste is transformed to bio gas that runs the buses and other Government vehicles.

On the other hand, even though Sweden has many lakes and a great deal of water, it is a vital commodity and regarded with a high priority.

In my small community we have a system of water pipes that are over 70 years old. I am not an engineer and suspect that the pipes are galvanize or iron based. When they leak, the water authority sources the leak and then instead of replacing the pipes which means digging up the road, they run a plastic sleeve in the pipe, blow hot air through to seal and fasten the plastic to the wall of the pipe and use them for many more years. It is proven technology and should be adopted in Barbados.

These are only 2 things that I see here in Sweden that can help Barbados. I am positive that other Bajans living abroad have seen technology around them and can share their thoughts and experiences with BU which may help Barbados solve a few of its problems.

The Little Boy And The Flute

Submitted by Charles Knights

When I was a little boy, about five or six years old in Barbados, to be precise in Brittons Hill. My mother took me to Bridgetown for window shopping at Christmas.

In a shop window at Cave Shepherd I saw a small wooden flute priced at just a couple dollars and was much taken to it.

As my mother and I boarded the bus (the old style open ones) on our way home I continued to pester my mother about how much I wanted the flute.

I kept annoying her and went on and on. Later in the evening with no respite. She grabbed me by the wrist and took me out the back door.

She angrily pointed to the moon and said: “young man that is the moon and if I could give it to you I would but there a some things I just cannot afford.”

I never mentioned that flute again.

I knew my mother was angry because she had gripped my wrist so tightly. There was a lesson I learned at a tender age in Barbados and it has served me well throughout my life.

In life there are some things you cannot “afford” despite the temptations forget them and move on.

If you can be anything be kind.

Tis the Time to Keep Hope Alive

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
Emily Dickinson

Country Barbados has endured tough social and economic times of late. What resonates with this blogmaster amidst the cacophony experienced anyway of the week  in the Barbados Underground is that one should never lose hope.

If human beings do not cling to hope, if there is no expectation that we can contribute to make tomorrow a better day – the logical result is chaos. Sensible human beings must therefore NEVER let go of the belief hope springs eternal. Every person populating the BU family must do all they can muster to add value to the space they influence. Thus leaving the world a better place.

On behalf of the BU household the blogmaster extends best wishes of the season to all members of the BU family and friends.



A Time to Clasp Hands


Time has changed. What have changed along with time?

Redistribution of income.
Non enforcement of Laws.
High levels of unemployment.
Justice system constipated
Lack of responsibility by key sectors of Society.

Vincent Codrington

A recurring narrative in Barbados fuelled by an unprecedented number of murders recorded at the mid-year is the idea the political directorate has the solution. The political estate is a member of civil society and obviously has a major role to play, however, it cannot be a singular effort if we are to be successful.

For a long time this blogmaster has crystallized a view that the lack of civic awareness by John and Jane Citizen represents a large part of the challenge to sustain a quality society. Does the average John and Jane understand the meaning of civil society? It is a term that is freely included in discussions these days as the national debate shifts gears in reaction to the pace social, economic and environmental degradation in taking place in Barbados.

A World Bank definition of civil society “refers to a wide array of organizations: community groups, non-governmental organizations [NGOs], labour unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations.” For many years Barbados authorities have boasted about the benefit of the Social Partnership comprised of government, labour unions and private sector. From observation through years of its existence the social partnership is triggered into action to respond to economic challenges. There is no malicious intent by the blogmaster to attack the social partnership. Any opportunity to bring interest groups to the table to pull on the peace pipe must be viewed as positive. What is instructive is that other islands having observed the Barbados model have seen the wisdom to expand membership in the social partnership by including other groups in civil society.

The quote by Vincent Codrington was posted as a contribution to identify factors responsible for a deteriorating social landscape in Barbados. He subsequently affirmed it is not an exhaustive list. What his contribution reinforces is that it will require a collective approach to attack present day challenges of crime to name one of the pressing ones. Leaders from every sphere of society must work to design the best approaches to wrestle back Barbados from the grip of dark forces.

Observing the commentary on social media, talk programs and street light chatter suggest there is a willingness by ordinary citizens to outsource the solution to our problem to government and political directorate. The government is a key member in civil society, however, it will require other members of civil society to deliver on respective mandates.

Besides the need for all groups in Barbados to work together in a meaningful way. The new normal of the times requires solutions to be tailored and implemented quickly by avoiding modalities from another time. It is accepted that extraordinary times require people to do extraordinary things to avoid chaos and dysfunction. All agree that we are experiencing unprecedented challenges and have reached the tipping point that should be a signal for everybody to rally if not for ourselves for the sake of the children.