“Do Not Throw Out The Baby With The Bath Water!” by David Comissiong
I have already gone on record as warning my Barbadian brothers and sisters that there are certain elitist elements in our midst who are conspiring to use the current national crisis and the great discredit that the fumbling and vision-less Democratic Labour Party administration has brought upon the institution known as “Government“, to steer this country in the direction of a dismantling of our people-oriented Social Democratic concepts and structures, and to replace them with a new elitist, right-wing, Capitalist concept of Barbadian society!
And if you have any doubts about what I am saying, please take a close look at the newspaper reports of Mr. Peter Laurie’s presentation to the first People’s Assembly meeting that was held last week.
According to Mr. Laurie (and the group of persons that he speaks for) he has developed a blueprint for a new Barbados in which fifty per cent of our state owned statutory corporations would be gotten rid of or hived off to the Private Sector; our Public Sector would be reduced by one-quarter; Trade Unions would no longer defend the rights of workers in the manner in which they do now; and Trade Unions would also give up their autonomy in the interest of conforming to a new national agenda that will be designed by a specially appointed group of 12 eminent persons!
In addition, you may wish to recall the great fanfare and aplomb with which the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) – led by Mr John Williams – launched its supposed grand plan”to save the Barbados economy” last August. And not only did the BPSA launch its plan, but Mr Williams publicly assured us that the plan would be “placed on Government’s plate immediately“, in keeping with Mr Williams’ conviction that it is the private sector and the Government that must guide and lead the reform of the country.
And what did this grand plan amount to? Well, after one waded through the usual banalities and generalities, one was left with three substantial concrete proposals:- privatise or sell off Government assets; terminate the system of free university or tertiary level education; and carry out “means testing” on seriously ill Barbadians who require hospitalisation or hospital-based health care, with a view to, if possible, making them pay for such health services.
None of these proposals came as any surprise to me, for as the ancient prophet Jeremiah asked rhetorically:-”Can the Ethopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?“
I have “been in town” long enough to realize that those August 2013 private sector proposals are almost identical to the prescriptions put forward by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) back in 1990 – the last time Barbados found itself in a recession comparable to the current recession.
Back then, the BCCI joined forces with the accounting firm of Ernst & Young to stage what they grandiloquently referred to as a “National Resource Mobilisation Conference“. In effect, it was an incestuous in-house convocation of the traditional private sector interests, and came up with such proposals as:-
“Eliminate free tertiary education; Reduce scope of welfare services including health; Introduce entitlement programs (means testing); A planned programme of privatisation is desirable… targets for privation should include both profitable and unprofitable enterprises and be extended to central government services… suggested targets include CBC, (Pine Hill) Dairy, Transport Board, Insurance Corporation (of Barbados), BNB, Arawak Cement Plant, Barbados Agricultural Development & Marketing Corporation, IDC factories, revenue collection (Customs and Inland Revenue departments), Barbados Mills, the Barbados Port Authority, etc”.
And so, at a time when Barbadians are desperately in search of new and innovative ideas to leverage the country’s human talent and its educational and health infrastructure to catalyze new spheres of foreign exchange earnings, all that Mr Williams and his colleagues have to offer is this warmed over stale right-wing soup.
These types of proposals put forward by the BPSA and their fellow-travelers are the product of a self-centred economic establishment devoid of any conception of national duty or of any commitment to the General Welfare of the nation and its people. They are also the tangible evidence of an organized effort to convince the Barbadian people to “throw out the baby with the bath water” when they undertake the imminent restructuring of their economy and society.
The source of the strength and progress of Barbados has been our unique Barbadian Social Democratic philosophy with its commitment to a Mixed Economy; a basic level of social welfare for all citizens; an acknowledgement of the galvanizing, pace-setting role that Government must play in fostering economic development; and a commitment to the up-holding of fundamental social rights such as the right to “free” education and health care.
This unique and progressive Barbadian social philosophy is the collective creation of all of the great “fathers” of our nation:- Dr. Charles Duncan O’Neale and his Democratic League, Sir Grantley Adams and his Barbados Labour Party, Mr. Wynter Crawford and his Congress Party, and Mr. Errol Barrow and his Democratic Labour Party.
It is a philosophy that has worked for Barbados! It is a philosophy that assisted our country to rise as high as position number 19 on the United Nations Human Development Index! It is a philosophy that we must defend and keep in place, even as we acknowledge the need for reforms to our economy and society and go about designing and instituting such reforms.
Whatever we do as we go forward from here, let us ensure that we do not throw out the baby with the bath water!