Thursday, April 18, 2024

ALL AH WE IS ONE: The social crisis


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INSIGHTFUL NATION COLUMNIST Adrian Greene (in the last SUNDAYSUN) encouraged his readers to read between the lines in order to grasp the real meaning behind the major issues confronting Barbados.

Like a good teacher, he demonstrated the art, by showing a link between a story about the foreclosure of the home of a well-known Barbadian businesswoman, the post-2008 economic crisis, the decline of the middle class, the strengthening of the super-rich, and the rise in crime, desperation and social dislocation among the poorest of the poor.

As if in confirmation, the very paper in which Greene’s article was carried, gave exposure to the viewpoint of the “ghetto youth” who blamed a rise in gun crime on factors such as the loss of economic opportunities, bad parenting, an erosion of traditional values and rising materialism, and the loss of confidence in traditional religious and political institutions.

In applying Greene’s lesson, the emerging picture from the connected dots is one of a deepening social crisis. However, a more complete image emerged on Page 30A, on which a real estate developer indicated that between December and August, non-Barbadians had spent US$130 000 000 in real estate purchases.

Indeed, in his article on the plight of the Barbadian businesswoman facing foreclosure, Greene had intelligently advised his readers to “look behind what is written and another character appears in the story. It is the person who will benefit from Ms Riley-Fox’s plight. There is someone who has the $600 000 to purchase the house at a bargain. The really wealthy get wealthier in a recession”.

These connected dots capture in a nutshell the essence of the politics of Barbados in the context of the post-2008 global economic crisis.

Those of us who have been seeking to make public comment on Government policy, have been warning that it is erroneous to allow narrow accounting “revenue vs expenditure” considerations to become the alpha and omega of public policy. A consciousness of Barbados as a “society and not an economy” should have led to greater creativity, wisdom and sensitivity to the plight of the poor.

It is impossible to disconnect, no matter how painful a truth, an enrolment of 500 students in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Cave Hill in 2015 down from 1 100 in 2013, to the social crisis facing Barbados. When coupled with the dispossession of the middle class, and the rise in wealth and power of the expatriate super-rich, and the early signs of criminal desperation on the part of the poorest of the poor, all the ingredients of a massive social crisis appear to be unfolding.

It is not too late for decision-makers to reconnect with the social democratic impulse which spurred the Caribbean independence project. Our political leaders should swallow their pride and admit that naked neo-liberalism has failed. Otherwise, prepare to reap the whirlwind.

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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