Are we independent?

“You could take off that yellow and blue and stop celebrating Independence, a dot like Barbados could be independent? Even large countries ain’t independent.” It is Avram’s voice. She was provoking me but I was too busy relaxing peacefully; too lost into my thoughts about frivolous subjects to take her on.

She burst out singing; “No man is an island” in her off-key sometimes bass cum soprano cum tenor voice. I couldn’t take it no more so I shouted out: “First, Barbados’ colours are gold, ultramarine plus black for the Broken Trident; you start wrong so you must end wrong.”

My alter ego is extremely persistent. She is also a strategist who carefully picks battles to lose or to win. Her goal is winning the war and I am always trying to defeat her.

“You are right, I started wrong and I’ve ended wrong. On reflection, wearing national colours is about patriotism, not independence” she said, “but I remembered all you said a few days ago about globalism and regional integration and I was trying to reconcile them with this independence thing.”

“Cooperation, cooperation not dependence,” I was saying but she was talking through my chant, not listening.

“Yes, yes, Barbados has a right to choose, so it is independent, like China and the United States” she taunted.

What I told you! Avram is a strategist; all she wanted was to set me thinking deeply. She succeeded. She won. My mind is in havoc.

First, I tried to understand independence. I saw a young person leaving his parental home with his mum and dad’s blessings and their expectation that he will support himself financially – pay his loans and living expenses- not run back home often begging and crying for help.

I draw an analogy with Barbados and its former mother country, England, part of the European Union and then I checked out Sir Ronald Saunders’ articles. He is a former diplomatic and would have reliable and sound information. But his comments left me gloomy.

It is not overstating the case to say that EU (European Union) assistance to the Caribbean for its productive sector and infrastructure is an essential component of government revenues, allowing them to spend on social welfare programmes,” he wrote. “If EU assistance is reduced, Caribbean countries can expect to see an expansion of poverty and a reduction of social welfare programmes, with an attendant increase in unemployment and violent crime.”

O Lord, we independent Caribbean countries begging our former mother countries, I cried.

But Barbados is solid I cried. The World Bank isn’t giving us concessionary loans and in fact it mentioned Barbados as one of those “countries (that) graduated from the aid recipient list (because it had) reach high income status and remain there for a few years.”

So Barbados standing on its own feet; I felt proud to be a member of an independent nation until I reached for the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

“Caribbean will mount a diplomatic demarche to forestall the reduction in foreign aid through further graduation. If this is successful it is likely to be only a temporary reprieve. For the time being, there is Chinese aid and PetroCaribe but the middle-income countries of the Caribbean must reconcile themselves to being forcefully weaned off aid and on to the international and local financial markets.”

I gleaned from the article that Barbados is among those countries that has to be forcefully weaned off so how independent is it?

Avram came in the room again grinning and carrying several pamphlets. “Look I’ve found a description of Barbados it is a popular one in journals.Barbados

“Barbados, she read “has a small open economy. ‘Small’ refers to the country’s inability to influence the price it pays or charges when doing trade with the rest of the world.’ Wait, Barbados doesn’t have a say, it relies on others to set prices for its products,” she added.

Check here, she said. “Government remains very concerned over the extremely high dependence on imports to meet domestic food requirements, which has placed Barbados in the category of Net Food Importing Developing Countries (NFIDCs) with approximately 74 percent of food requirements being sourced through imports” she read.

Stop! Stop! I cried covering my ears with my hands but she went on telling me about the World Trade Organisation where we had a say but too few experts to analyse effectively, to lobby, to negotiate and we being led by the powerful countries. “Weak words, weak vote,” she stressed.

She said we didn’t stand a chance in this globalised world where multilateral rules were set by international organisations turning us into robots and shoving things down our throats that we can’t swallow but try to because we wanted favours.

She said rules about poverty, privatisation, land zoning, children per school ratio and so on were set by multilateral organisations that don’t have a clue about our cultural nuances and the effect of these things on our lives. She said they fool Barbados that it has a vote but power and influence are asymmetric and we were on the lighter side of the scale, so our vote is a blank.

“You don’t see that we can’t take flying fish to England for Maggie; they say Barbados carry on back yard slaughtering but we didn’t start swine flu nor bird flu, yet they punishing us and speaking about phyto-sanitary standards. You think if we were independent, we would let them bully us, we would put a non-tariff barrier in their way too.”

She went on to talk about the International Monetary Fund visiting Barbados ‘two mornings’ and tell us how to run our economy, making us raise our Value Added Tax to 17.5 per cent. I shot back that the IMF told big England about their fiscal deficit so why not Little England, the nickname given to Barbados. But Avram was winning and she wasn’t quitting.

rainbow 002

A rainbow of hope for Barbados’ future

So I screamed that at least we aren’t like Turk & Caicos Islands where Britain sent an officer to run their affairs nor we weren’t like Montserrat where England could sanction public officers. I know that was a powerful blow, so I ran into my room before Avram could recover but peep out to shout out to all Barbadians,“let’s plant food and produce more goods; stop buying so many imports that run down our scare foreign affairs; buy local.”  

I then hollered to the top of my voice. “Happy Independence Barbados” and I slammed the door in the face of Avram and all other naysayers to Barbados’ economic and social health.

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