Following is an edited version of the New Year’s Message by Leader Of The Opposition, Bishop Joseph J. S. Atherley
“Fellow Barbadians, I take this opportunity at the start of this new year of 2021 to wish for you better days. I pray for the smile of God’s favour to shine upon you and yours in the days, weeks and months ahead.
“The end of one year and the beginning of another are usually seen as a time for reflection and resolve. Reflection upon the ups and downs of the past year, and resolve to take fresh guard, as we look forward to and outward upon the new calendar experience that beckons.
“Personally, I am not much given to making new year’s resolutions. However, it can be quite a useful exercise, when one ponders one’s own role in improving relationship with one’s Lord, developing a better sense of responsibility to family and friends, appreciating moreso one’s sense of duty to community and country. This we do at the level of our individual lives. But it is an exercise that may also usefully be undertaken as a collective, as a people, as a nation.
So apart from wishing you well at the outset of this year, I wish to urge our collective resolve in a few significant areas of national life. I say urge our collective resolve, because this is not an obligation on the part of Government alone; although they must take significant lead in this effort in critical ways.
First we need to resolve to rebrand Barbados. This is to renew and refresh the “Idea of Barbados”. This rebranding must be undertaken, let it be understood, primarily in the interest of reinforcing that desired national self image, particularly in the minds and psyche of those who must take this country forward over the next 50 years.
“The Idea that is Barbados” must be a viable exercise in Nation building. It cannot continue to be that which clearly manifests itself – an expression of privileged fiefdoms and elite interests consolidation.
What drives our sense of who we are and underscores our philosophy of nationhood and nation-building, cannot be tritely used and little understood imported and borrowed clichés of “this is who we are”.
We must more clearly identify and profile ourselves as a people with a high sense of moral rectitude and a properly balanced sense of right. We are in danger of losing both. We need to do more to recover our sense of friendly neighbourliness which gave us a sense of common purpose and destiny, and also made us as a people more attractive to the visiting world.
The design of the Societal construct that is Barbados must be reshaped and revalued first by and for us, and then seen again as it was before, a model for our region and the world.
Secondly, we need to reboot our economy. It is insufficient that we boast of growing levels of foreign reserves based on borrowings. Or that we tout any success of debt reduction simply by means of debt restructuring and debt defaulting, while creating new debt obligations.
Yet we do this in a context where for future generations job opportunity is diminishing and where under-employment is their best option. These are generations of future adult Barbadians who will want to build and own; who will want to get into business. But because of our today’s actions will already have been struggling to find capital, struggling to make mortgage payments, struggling to raise families. Our current economic model and orientation will leave them in a bind, perpetuating a syndrome of persistent poverty in a skewed economy.
Rebooting our economy will require: A new deal framework with financial institutions for small business development. This must include state and private capital partnerships for funding small and medium enterprises.
Rebooting our economy must entail the embrace of new ways of doing food production that will move us beyond food security to food sovereignty.
To reboot the economy there must be incorporation of new technologies to take us beyond facilitating improved government services, to increasing creative opportunities for our young people and engaging in new products and services for export.
Rebooting the economy entails the exploitation of new sources of energy . . . in a way that encourages and facilitates domestic enterprise.
Rebooting the economy means the discovery of new opportunities for employment creation, skills formation and revenue generation in our responses to climate change impact and our resilience building.
We cannot boast of success in rebooting our economy unless we dismantle an economic system and structure which yields 30 per cent plus youth unemployment even prior to COVID, institutionalised under-employment, threats to organised labour, the problem of capital access, and narrowly focused domestic investment.
Thirdly, we need to rebalance the scales of justice . The wait continues to be too long for people to have their day and say in court, or to get justice. Debts paid for crimes done must be seen as that – debt paid. Post debt-payment marginalisation and ostracisation by the system and culture is a crime in itself. Rebalanced scales of justice must also accommodate the interests of victims of crime in tangible ways.
Beyond legal justice, there must be tangible and enduring efforts to construct viable platforms and vehicles for expressions of social justice. No Barbadian must be made to feel a second-class citizen in his or her own country. None should be denied opportunity for redress of injury to their interests.
Fourthly, we must also resolve to rebuild faith in our institutional and systemic Integrity. The level of cynicism in our country at this stage of development with respect to our major institutions runs counter to the thrusts towards that development and our best efforts at nation-building.
There is a sense of exclusion from the benefits of public policy. There is a sense of alienation from the processes around governance. There is a growing level of distrust relative to the practices of institutions intended to provide various forms of policing. Questions are increasing with frequency as to the viability of the family unit, the genuineness of the voice and presence of the church. Concerns are reaching the stage of alarm with respect to matters of equity, justice and fair play.
The year 2020 has been one associated with a heightened sense of vulnerability for all of us. It has brought to many a sense of loss, and unfortunately to some, a new level of hopelessness. For our nation it brought serious economic reversal.
The economic shock attendant upon the obvious public health threat was merely superimposed upon a national landscape already evidencing social erosion, moral uncertainty, political polarisation and persisting exposure to the strictures of the international institutional community.
Such is the context in which we come to 2021. Such can cause us to have pause and or to be disquieted, or diverted from the proper course and cause of nation-building.
I once again suggest we need to Rebrand Barbados, giving rebirth of expression to a refreshed sense of our identity, of who we are. We need to resolve to Reboot our economy. We need to Rebalance the Scales of Justice in our land. We need to Rebuild our Institutional and systemic integrity.
May you prosper in the new year and may well being attend you and yours. Every good wish for 2021 from the Office of the Opposition and its Upper House Parliamentary team of Senators Caswell Franklyn and Crystal Drakes, from the family of PdP and from my family and myself. Blessings. (PR)