Barbados falling short on the promises of independence, archbishop says


Barbados falling short on the promises of independence, archbishop says


George Conger

Barbados has failed to fulfill its national aspirations in the fifty years since independence, the Archbishop of the West Indies said this week. In a sermon delivered on 28 Nov 2016 at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown at the 50th Anniversary of Independance Service of Thanksgiving, the Most Rev. John Holder, Bishop of Barbados and Archbishop of the West Indies, (pictured) lamented the uneven economic and social development found across the Caribbean island nation. Chronic unemployment and underemployment, a lack of electricity, sanitation services and running water in some homes coupled with a decline in public and private morality were signs that all was not well.

Fifty years of independence had brought prosperity to some, but not for all. “There are those among us who seem not to be able to experience their fair share of the fruits of national development. We cannot overlook and ignore them. Their welfare must be very high on our national agenda,” he said according to a transcript of his sermon published by the Nation.

“We must continue in earnest to address our present challenges, whether it is the delivery of adequate supplies of water, or access to jobs, or the collection of refuse, or simply a lack of confidence that is necessary to push us to another level of national development. We must adequately address the problems we are facing in our country and press forward to better times.”

Dr. Holder distanced himself, however, from those who claimed independence from Britain was a mistake: “On our 50th Anniversary of Independence, we have a lot to celebrate. To conclude that there is nothing to celebrate at this time is to ignore the steps forward this country has taken, and the success it has received during the past 50 years.”

While a portion of the blame for the country’s failings could be laid at the door of overseas events and economic cycles, much of the problem was of Barbados’ own making. “What we are facing are Barbadian problems, and we dare not label them otherwise,” Dr. Holder said.

The archbishop urged political leaders to set aside partisan divisions and work for the common good of the country, saying: “those whom we have put in charge of our affairs, of our country, must be held to the highest level of responsibility in dealing with the problems we are facing”.

“If we devolve into small inward-looking interest groups and classes and parties and point fingers, “ he said, “then we will not be able to engage in the problem-solving process as efficiently and effectively as we should.”

Since independence, Barbados has transformed itself from a low-income agricultural economy producing mainly sugar and rum into a middle-income economy built on tourism and offshore banking that generates one of the Caribbean’s highest per capita incomes. In recent years the government of prime minister Freundel Stuart has sought to diversify the economy, in order to reduce the nation’s vulnerability to overseas market forces. Prime Minister Stuart’s Democratic Labour Party government has pursued an expansionary stimulus spending program, but this has led to inflation and insignificant job growth. Due to the government’s deficit spending, Barbados’ debt is now equal to its annual GDP, further constraining economic and employment growth.