This is our day. Happy Independence! And we must give thanks because we haven’t gotten here by accident. But we have weathered some of the most difficult times in the last few years. And we stand tall and proud on this sunny day of our 57th anniversary of Independence. For that we give thanks as firm craftsmen of our fate.
But as we give thanks, let us also remember that the journey is not over. And if the journey is not over, we will do well always to recollect purpose and mission. We will do well to remember the principles that hold and unite our nation together. And I ask us to pay tribute to those principles, the commitment to pride and industry in our motto, to excellence as we have seen in the distribution of medals and awards today. But in particular, you will forgive me if I salute the immigration department and its leader, Margaret Inniss, and the Student Revolving Loan Fund, and its leader Ambrose Johnson, for showing what is possible in the public service to cater to the people whom we serve. It is a good and right thing that we should give thanks to you, and to inspire all others to believe that as we plough in service of this nation, can achieve excellence as we give back to our people.
I want equally to recognise that beyond excellence, our commitment to social justice and social unity, to caring for each other, that these things matter, not just in the affairs of state, but indeed, in the daily practice of our lives as we engage with each other, family to family, friends, work colleagues, and indeed the stranger in the street. These are the principles that have sustained generations of Barbadians before us and must still do so today.
As we equally remember that, we commit again to economic enfranchisement and economic resilience. Because at this very time when the world is struggling with being able to allow people simply to live in peace, and simply to live on a livable planet, it becomes more and more difficult for many to sustain themselves. And our pledge to each other, that we should lift people out of poverty, but equally committed to wealth, not just the earning of cash, but the generation of assets and wealth that can be passed from generation to generation. That we equally recall that caring for each other and economic enfranchisement and resilience cannot be done in a vacuum and that the sustainable environment in which we live matters. And for those who don’t remember that, ask the residents of Six Men’s, who previously lived on the coast, and who were forced to become migrants in their own land, purely because of the extent to which the oceans claimed the land on which they were born, and they live.
Similarly, we commit to cultural preservation because who we are, says everything about us. This is the country that when I say “One one blow kill old cow,” you don’t have to wonder what I’m talking about. Or when we say “We is we,” you don’t have to ask, where’d that come from? This is our sanctuary and this is the place we should always find comfort. And as we do we remember that we don’t live in this world alone. And diplomatic engagement, brotherly and sisterly relations will always be necessary as we live on this planet, as part of humanity.
I asked us even as we meet today, to recognise that Barbados despite its size, not only can be friends of all and satellites of none, but capable of providing leadership beyond our size, to ensure that the world can become a better place. Indeed, as we speak here today, this sermon word has come from the UAE that the world’s nations have finally not only settled on the Loss and Damage Fund, but the capitalisation of it has started this morning in earnest, and we thank the people of Barbados for playing the role that we have played in ensuring that this most essential item of justice can help level the playing field for those of us who have become victims of the climate crisis. Will we, today or next week, see the capitalisation where we want it? No. But it is the beginning. And as we have learned, step by step, we can ensure that justice is delivered.
But my friends as we commit to this as a nation. Many of you may be asking, “But, we keep going. We tired. We talking about this and we talk about that!” The reality is that in spite of the beauty of the sun, in spite of the gentle, caressing nature of the breeze, in spite of the wonderful nature of our environment, we live in a world that is precariously placed. And we therefore give thanks for the journey but recognise that the journey is not the destination.
This year, Barbados has been adjudged as the fifth fastest growing economy in the entire world. That has not come by accident. That has come by the sacrifice and of the hard work and the commitment to industry and the commitment to inclusive growth that we have put. We have known what it is to do things that people said shouldn’t be done. We introduced a minimum wage in the middle of a pandemic, when others said, “You can’t do it, and you shouldn’t do it.” But we saw the people who needed the helping hand and who needed the protection at the time when the environment was at its most vicious.
We have known what it is to be in an IMF programme, and still ensure that the public servants of Barbados can receive two salary increases in five years, when others would have thought that this was impossible. We have completed many of our Mission Critical items, and we went to Mission Survival during the pandemic, and during the ashfall, and during the freak storm, and during Hurricane Elsa, and during the consequences of war.
My friends, whether we can stay focused for the major mission of transformation, is not going to be determined by the government alone. Nor the public sector. Nor the private sector. Nor the labour movement. Nor the households. Nor the firms alone. It will be determined by all of us cooperating to commit to Mission Transformation. And it doesn’t mean that there will not be times when Mission Critical will have to be refocused. But our eyes must be singularly focused on transforming a nation.
I want to thank the people of Barbados for allowing us, over the course of the last 18 months, to carry out a difficult conversation as to how we would preserve the quality of life of our seniors, through our pension systems, both public pension and National Insurance. It could not be done without the maturity of this nation that allowed our people to engage in this difficult conversation. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re engaged now in recognising that poverty is not the mission of the Ministry of People Empowerment, but the elimination of poverty is the obligation of each and every one of us in every household, in how we look out and take care of our brothers and sisters.
Whether in material goods or whether in the assistance of the soul that is so critical.
We ask also that we engage with the same maturity, not only in the discussion as to how we modernise our criminal justice system, our penal system, but above all else, our educational system. Our children have come into this world and they did not ask us to become victims of a system of educational apartheid. And if we continue to perpetuate it, believing that we should have left three or four people and leave five or six behind, then we will be guilty of the greatest travesty that children of independence can be guilty of. We will not always agree on everything. But the essence of what we
can do together to lay a pathway for our children, is absolutely critical to the kind of society and the kind of inclusive growth that we can have as a people.
So my friends, I understand that sometimes it is difficult, and that sometimes you may even be a little weary of the efforts that are necessary. But when you were a child and a teenager, there were things of which you tired too, but they were critical to your growth. They were critical to our sustenance, they were critical to give you the platform that could make you into adults, into a nation that would want to be inspired, exulting, free.
Let us, therefore, understand that our lot, as I said, in the last few years, is the lot to plant, to sow. And if we plant correctly, and if we nurture, others will come and reap. And some will reap a three-week crop and some will reap a six-week crop and some will reap a three-month and some will read a nine and 12 month. We will not all come in at the same time. But the importance of it is that we do not leave behind those who have not yet reached the destination.
On this 57th anniversary, I ask us therefore as people of this proud nation of this proud Republic, that we remember the basics. Be grateful and be full of grace. Be committed and be constant in our purpose. Because through our purpose, we can settle the missions. Last year, we told you we were talking about them. This year on the 1st of May, we signed and committed to them. And the journey of execution is not an overnight journey, but over the next seven years, we will show ourselves and the world that we know what it is to preserve our blue and green, not just our blue, yellow and black.
That we know what it is to ensure that cleanliness is next to godliness, and that we can return to the old practices of taking care in front of us because many hands do make light work. That we know we know what it is to look in the mirror and love who we see, because that is even though the second mission. It is only second to the environment in which we live, but it is the essence of who we are.
That you don’t feel smaller because somebody wants to look down on you, because nobody is better than you and you are better than nobody. That we know what it is to understand that without food and water, the sustenance that we need to build to plant, will not be there. That we understand that we must keep ourselves healthy, and we must keep our country and our communities safe. That we understand that left those with little, and few with much, cannot be the horizon that our children see.
That there must be fairness and opportunity for all. And as we enfranchise and empower, we continue to do so conscious that it is individuals who make the difference to attain the mission. And that finally, we use this we ensure that we are in a position to be able to use technology for what it is worth as a tool. But never forget that the ethics of each and every one of us as a human being is stronger than any tool of technology that we use.
My dear friends, this is our day. But we are conscious that it is not the world in which we want to live. And there are some things over which we have little control and there are some that we have great control over. Let us as citizens of Barbados, therefore, commit to do the things we can and change the things we must, and be resilient to the things beyond our control.
I leave to go to COP later this afternoon. Because the world is at a stage that if we don’t limit the increase in temperatures and our best chance looks like now controlling methane, if we don’t do it, the season of superlatives that has come to us this year, will cause more drought, will cause more floods, will cause more hardship and more migration. This is not what we want. And little by little, if all of us across the world can play our part, then we, like our grandparents and great grandparents, can conceive of a future that hopefully will allow dreams not to be deferred, not to be lost, but to be
reached and to be celebrated. Not as a wanton force, but as a critical platform for our growth.
I ask us now to stand and give three cheers to our great nation and to remember those who could not be with us today. But to have them at the centre of our thoughts, because Barbados is not only our country, Barbados is, and please forgive me, the best little rock that this world has ever seen.
God bless Bim. Hip hip, hip, hip hip!
God bless Bim on Independence Day. Thank you.