Barbados ‘a unique idea’
January 30, 2015
Barbados ‘a unique idea’

Fri, Jan 30, 2015

by Kimberley Cummins

of the Nation newspaper in Barbados

It was the philosophy and foresight of late Prime Minister Errol Barrow that heralded the concept of Barbados being the gem of the Caribbean.

And Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves believes that such a mantra and self-belief will be the qualities that will take Barbados successfully through its current economic crisis and into the future.{{more}}

He shared this view while delivering the featured speech at the annual Errol Barrow Memorial Lecture and Awards Ceremony at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus on January 23. Dr Gonsalves described the late National Hero as a rare quality, a revolutionary leader and a visionary regionalist whose contribution to national and regional development was priceless.

“The Idea of Barbados encompasses more than an island state or a national community. To be sure it flows from a national community which has been in ownership, not residence, of an especial or particular sea scape or landscape. Still it is more than this and it assumes the veritable autonomy, a category beyond the community.

“The Barbadian diaspora scattered overseas has come to draw from this specialness known as the idea of Barbados. This idea acknowledges that Barbados is unique, sui generis, of its own kind. It is connected to, derived from, the physical and historical condition of Barbados; yet transcends it,” he said.

Dr Gonsalves added: “The unique idea of Barbados does not and cannot make Barbados immune from the universal laws of history, society or political economy. Indeed the idea of Barbados has been fashioned through a parallelogram of forces and contemporary circumstances, global and regional, which have shaped and conditioned the home grown evolutions, adaptations, alterations and changes,” he said.

The outspoken leader said that more than any other Caribbean society, with the possible exclusion of Cuba, Barbados had arrived at a place where its uniqueness represented a model of governance, political economy, way of life and social order, which invites emulation elsewhere in the Caribbean and further afield, albeit with appropriate amendments. He explained, however, that many other territories have not been able to quite reach the “idea of Barbados” as set by Barbados.

“Barbados’ high quality of governance and high level of human development has been a marvel to objective observers, including reputable international agencies. On a wide range of governance and developmental indices, Barbados is in the top rank globally – indeed overall. It is a developing country, with developed nations’ governance and human development attainments. All this is extraordinary for a country with 166 square miles and a quarter of a million people which is less than 200 years removed from slavery and less than 50 years as an independent nation.

“I make bold to say that other Caribbean member states aspire to be an idea but none has quite achieved that status, even though each possess its particular nationalism,” he suggested.

The Vincentian leader noted that in a comparative sense Jamaica was also a brand, but not an idea.

“Rastafarianism, Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and Sandals have helped to shape the Jamaican brand; a marketing tool to attract visitors. But it is not a transcendental idea that infuses the politics and society. Trinidad is an incomplete national formation, engulfed by rising lawlessness and propped up by oil. Guyana’s natural condition is largely untamed but a nation which possesses enormous potential. The member states of the [Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States] OECS in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, aspire to the Barbados model.

“Successful British colonies such as Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands possess an artificiality which overwhelms their indigenous vitality. The French overseas territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe are subsidised enclaves in the region in search of Caribbean identity. Puerto Rico, a Caribbean outpost of the American empire, a confused and inchoate territory with an ill-defined future. I make these points not to in any way cast aspersions on any territories, I am making a narrow comparison to what I call the idea of Barbados, which emerges from Barrow’s teachings,” Dr Gonsalves explained.

The idea of Barbados, he further noted, had saved Barbados in the past and would surely enable Barbados to meet successfully its current economic challenges brought on largely, though not exclusively, by the prolonged global economic slowdown from 2008.

Dr Gonsalves believed that Barrow, who would have celebrated his 95th birthday last Wednesday January 21, was at the forefront of crafting the transformation which had given rise to the idea of Barbados. And he pronounced him the greatest leader ever to have originated from the Caribbean.

But he warned that such great leadership, which had become synonymous with the Barbadian landscape, was in present danger if the nurturing of continued quality leadership was not a focus. He said the “idea of Barbados” was in danger of being undermined if the political system fails to renew and replenish, on an ongoing basis, its leadership stock from the best and brightest of Barbados.

“I am satisfied that is the vehicle through which Barbados will successfully meet its current and prospective economic challenges. The idea of Barbados is a shared experience of Barbadians – it belongs to them. However, this shared experience must become a conscious expression and a fully articulated language for action. It is the frame of reference for continuity and change, orderly governance and profound alterations in the political economy to accommodate the circumstances at hand.

“There has been so much negativism and learnt helplessness about this region and Barbados’ travails, that I thought the demagoguery and our Caribbean tendency of beating up ourselves were in danger of triumphing in a situation which demanded critical independent thought.

“The philosophy and achievements of Errol Barrow were the starting point which pointed me in the direction of fleshing out the Idea of Barbados. Barbados is an idea which over time has become manifest in reality. It has to be constructed on the basis of hard and smart productive work. Laziness is the absence of virtue,” Dr Gonsalves added. (SDB Media)