Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Six bridges to cross

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When I read in last Thursday’s DAILY NATION that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had outlined a road map for economic recovery and the paper had reduced it to six broad goals, it reminded me of the song from the 1955 movie Six Bridges To Cross. It is based upon the famous 1950 Great Brink’s Robbery of Boston, Massachusetts, in which the thieves made off with roughly $2.5 million. Oh dear!

I presume that the Prime Minister’s plan gives some detail as to how those goals are to be reached or ‘‘scored’’. Scored in the sense that one can know when the goal is reached and recorded as achieved.

My Bridge 1: For instance,if road repairs are a priority, would one approach the task by prioritising; for instance, drawing an arc with a radiusof two or three miles from the South Coast to the West Coast, using Trafalgar Square as the fulcrum, more or less. Then all roads within that area would be surveyed within a three-week period and recommendations made for the type of repair/recovery necessary. Similar sectioning would be made from Oistins, Holetown, Boscobel and other locations whether through an arc or circle. This would be the plan to get our roads back in shape.

The goals stated in the newspaper are, to my mind, nebulous. Therefore, suppose we substitute – as Bridge 2 – the particular for the nebulous, then we might have as a goal ‘‘Enhanced Adult Learning’’ based on the UNESCO assertion that adult learning is one of the keys to the 21st century.

It releases the energies and creativity of men and women. Indeed, learning environments from primary to tertiary and adult shall be improved and monitored to ensure that there is the opportunity for each learner to become the best that they can be, and for the adult to be the best in their chosen field.

Bridge 3: Building new economic and social bridges. The people whom we previously cast out are now glowing. Some of the largest oil fields have just been discovered off the coast of Guyana by Exxon Mobil. They say Guyana is going to be the next Dubai of this region. It is not an overnight fix but we can prepare to partner with Guyana as we did many years ago.

I had previously suggestedthat the Caribbean countries lease 100 square miles of Guyana similar to how Hong Kong was leased to Britain for 99 years. It would require people with a willingness to have a ‘‘frontier’’ experience to develop it.

Now, however, we are likely to have a ‘‘new frontier’’ in (hopefully for them) an oil-rich Guyana.

In the circumstances, I wish to propose a twinning of our two countries along these lines: Have an exchange of100 persons each month for a year. That is 100 from Guyana come to Barbados while 100 from Barbados go to Guyana. Each cohort lives in different parts of each territory. Evaluate. Carry on as modified, if necessary, for two more years.

Thus Barbados may become the sun, sea and sand recreation focus for those working in the oil industry, and Barbadians and others help to buildup a new city in Guyana. Like Dubai? We shall see.

Bridge 4: Agriculture: An industry in search of a policy. Twenty-seven years ago I gave a public discourse on that topic. Well, we are still awaiting a policy. When I look around and note the crafty preparation for the Cahill project with river tamarind trees growing everywhere, I have to presume that, maybe, such may translate into the unannounced agricultural policy.

A part of my proposal in my presentation was a ‘‘certificate of stewardship’’, which recognised an initial 25-year lease of agricultural land to afford the lessee the opportunity to grow food, but also required of him/her that the fertility of the land be improved. If the lease is retired, then the owner pays an agreed sum for the improvement of fertility of the land.

Bridge 5: Facilitate the establishment of a commercial bank jointly owned by the registered co-operatives in Barbados. Branches are to be established, within five years, in New York, London, Toronto and possibly Georgetown, Guyana.

Bridge 6: Barbados’ total debt be consolidated and restructured under the umbrella of a single loan or certainly no more than two, with interest on the reducing balance agreed up front.

Six bridges to cross – which one is the right one? that’s the question. My suggestions noted above may help us to decide which ‘‘bridge’’ is the first one to cross, but also to recognise that eventually all will have to be crossed, in time. With the broad goals of the Prime Minister’s plan being vague, I am not sure how the country can grasp those essentials needed to move forward.

– MICHAEL RUDDER

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