After spending almost 3 months in Barbados, I have observed developments in the island as an outsider that have affected the Bajan lifestyle and experience. I have been chastised by many that I am too critical of some inconveniences that are reasonably unacceptable and that need some improvement in this age of modern technology.
I have mixed feelings about departing the shores of this tropical paradise and returning to the frigid environs of North America amid the uncertainty of a Donald Trump’s presidency and the potential threat to democracy utilizing his seemingly adversarial stance with the press.
Like President-elect Trump, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, has a similar hostile relationship with the local press, but that is where the shared characteristic ends. While Mr. Trump is up at ‘the crack of dawn’ setting his agenda through social media, and responding to every remark, however, trivial or insignificant; Mr. Stuart neither tweet, speak nor reassure the citizens what plans his administration will carry out to solve the myriads of problems the country faces. Mr. Stuart has often ask earnestly that Barbadians to give more, but they have already exceeded their act of giving through depressive taxation and unsatisfactory representation. It is now the responsibility of the Prime Minister and his out of control Cabinet to step up its game and follow his advice.
The lack of transparency and accountability in government projects has beset the Stuart administration, and the previous governments as well. Per the 2015 Auditor General’s report, some statutory bodies and agencies that spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, have failed to submit financial data for audit purposes as far back as 2010. Among the list includes: the National Insurance Fund; Sanitation Service Authority; Transport Authority and the Transport Board; Barbados Agriculture Development and Marketing Corp; Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Barbados Water Authority. This is a by no means a complete list of the offenders, but the most egregious.
Apparently, there is increasing collusion and deal-making among the powerful cabinet ministers (who also are business owners), and the 5% white minority population, who are, indeed, the wealthiest citizens of Barbados. As Heather Cole so aptly wrote about in her blog, Hypocrites and Parasites, ‘white business entities now cater to every need on the island’, leading to the concentration of power and wealth in a few hands.
As Barbados debt burden increases and attempts to provide essential services to its citizen diminish, those responsible for the government finances must be held accountable. As it stands, only a few knows where the money goes.
Barbados will return to business as usual as the year-long celebration of the 50th Independence Anniversary ends January 17th; which began earnestly after the annual summer Crop Over Carnival – the national festival of culture, music and revelry, mixed with traditions and cultural elements – from the past. Crop Over exhibitions, shows and competitions showcase the skill and talent of artisans and artistes. Partying, masquerading and alcohol consumption play a major part of the celebrating and entertaining.
The Barbados Tourism Authority promotes Barbados as the party and culinary capital of the Caribbean, and it has sponsored several chef competitions and food festivals that really enhance the dining experience with an eclectic taste in the local fare.
Finding an event to attend, is only as limited as one’s financial ability to buy a ticket to one of these extravaganza, which are pricey and less affordable for the average Barbadian, but usually well attended by the business and political class, the connected, sycophants, and tourists.
I can relax in ample sunshine, crystal clear blue water, glorious sunsets, white-sand beaches, all the rum one can drink and the delightful food around every corner eatery and restaurant, in the traditional Bajan gastronomy, seems like a no-brainer. But I am also mindful that the abuse of a good thing, is just as harmful as a lack of good governance. Whether I stay or go, uncertainty is everywhere.