Saturday, April 20, 2024

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Independence challenges


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The celebration of Barbados’ 48th Independence anniversary in the midst of an economic and a deeper existential crisis provided a useful opportunity for engaging in meaningful reflection on the kind of future which could be collectively remade as a response to current challenges.

Hence, the annual Independence addresses by our political leaders were important windows through which to glean insight into their level of consciousness of the gravity of the challenges, their sincerity in confronting them, and the tactical and programmatic responses and intellectual commitments which they are willing to undertake as concrete responses.

Judging from the “Independence addresses” by the political leaders, however, the 2014 celebrations were not utilised to begin the process of charting policy responses to the 21st century challenges of Barbadian Independence. 

Sadly, the denial persisted. Ironically, in a moment when most of the critical gains of the Barbadian Independence project such as universal education and health care are being eroded by the Freundel Stuart administration, the Prime Minister’s speech sought to celebrate these very things as the pinnacle of Barbadian post-colonial achievement, with no explanation about why they were being discontinued, and the implications of such discontinuation for Independence.

Perhaps, Mr Stuart chose to glance backward at past achievement precisely because there was little in the present to celebrate. Similarly, his promise for the future was the vague and perhaps obvious notion that “better days are ahead for Barbados”. That may very well be true on the basis of the commonsensical notion that the negatives must “bottom out” at some point. 

However, whilst the words of hope were understandably important in the midst of the celebration of an important landmark that came in dark times, a far more prime ministerial statement would have included a clear articulation of the policy and ideational responses which would have facilitated these expected better times. This is a task requiring the collective minds of his party and should include a full articulation of the journey walked by Barbados, the challenges of the present, and the concrete policy decisions which will be required in the next five to seven years to meet the challenges. 

In short, the Prime Minister should have marked the 48th anniversary of Independence with a major policy speech which grabbed the attention of the nation, rather than the routine mundane, humdrum words made mandatory by a date on the calendar. 

Perhaps, the Leader of the Opposition was closer to the policy mark when she insisted that the time had not yet come for the abandonment of the social measures which had shaped Barbados. She was perhaps, however, too narrow in reducing the challenges to a crisis of confidence. The Barbados Labour Party, too, did not seize the moment to provide the definitive speech that charts a course for the post-Independence Barbadian future.

Whoever does this most clearly will justify their leadership claims.

• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email


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