Dear Gabby, please cool the ‘riot’ talk
Tue, July 31, 2012 - 12:00 AM
THE SURPRISING CLAIM by iconic calypsonian The Mighty Gabby that Barbados was now “ripe for a riot” as a consequence of the high level of poverty has driven Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett on the back foot to quickly reject this contention.
Whether it’s the atmosphere of this season, with the customary annual mix of cultural and political observances (Crop-Over and Emancipation), that inspired this development, there needs to be a distinction in noting the level of structural poverty and in interpreting prevailing worrying social and economic factors to warn about perceived “ripeness” for a “riot”.
There is no denying the fact that Barbados, which has long enjoyed the proud reputation of one of the better managed economies, if not the best managed economy in the Caribbean Community, has fallen on “hard times” with comparatively high rates of unemployment and related climbing poverty.
After all, it was Blackett himself who had told the House of Assembly, back in February, the unpleasant “news” that since the 2010 Survey Of Living Conditions the number of Barbadians living “below the poverty line” has doubled over what existed a decade ago.
Granted that at the time he was simply presenting available official data that revealed some 19.03 per cent of Barbadians in 15 per cent of households living below the poverty line.
But in his hasty response to the legendary calypsonian, Blackett would also have been aware of the earlier intervention by Opposition Leader Owen Arthur in angrily declaring that statistical data would confirm that the current Government had acquired “a failing grade” in poverty reduction, one that could not be simplistically rationalized.
Put that exchange down to the cut and thrust of politics in our multi-party parliamentary system of governance. The reality, however, is that for at least 19 to 20 per cent of the citizens of this nation living in conditions below the defined poverty line is, objectively, a matter for deep concern.
Yet, as Mighty Gabby, one of the best known names in the world of Caribbean calypso and a Cultural Ambassador for Barbados, ought to know, there are other CARICOM states in the northern and eastern region of our community with comparatively higher levels of poverty and unemployment.
Do they also stand in danger of facing likely social upheavals, or “riots”, to follow the contention of our revered calypsonian, Mighty Gabby?
Not even politicians, known for irrationalities, across the political divide in those CARICOM countries have interpreted their own national levels of poverty and unemployment to justify a warning on impending “riots”.
So cool it, dear Gabby. Your concerns over the national poverty level are undoubtedly shared. But it’s quite a quantum leap to compare today’s Barbados with the dehumanizing social and economic conditions associated with the historic riot of 1937.
- Editor's Choice