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I’ve always been proud to be Bajan. To my mind, that status has long been synonymous with qualities like intelligence, integrity, common sense, hardiness, a great sense of humour and a love of the simple life.
Growing up in ordinary working class districts like The Ivy, Deacons Road and Cave Hill only served to reinforce that pride, as I witnessed, first hand, the struggle of simple folk to survive.
Poverty was never an excuse for engaging in crime. People learned to manage, to stretch their dollars. Inventions like the “meeting turn” helped them through difficult financial times. To beg, they were ashamed. Even when poor, they were peaceful and polite. They were Bajan.
Half a century later, that pride I once felt is dripping away. The immediate cause is reading the current review of the Auditor General’s Report. Forget the condition of our roads; put aside the parlous state of our foreign reserves; discount for a moment the state of public transportation and the problems with garbage collection. All of these may be forgiven on the basis that “we don’t have any money”.
But it is impossible for any reasoning, reasonable, rational person to excuse the horrific state of public financial affairs documented in that report. More to the point, this cannot be the Barbados of which I was so proud. Bajans don’t do this. We don’t behave like this. Bajans are smarter. We have more integrity, more common sense, more pride in ourselves. What is worse, nay unforgivable, is that the powers that be can tolerate this year after year after year.
Against my better judgement, against my better hope, against all that I cherish as a Bajan, I’m wondering, fearfully and with dread, if this state of affairs is actually not accidental. Over one billion dollars is hanging in the balance without proper accounting. You don’t have to be a cynic to see how easily funds can disappear without trace when financial confusion is endemic and allowed to persist for years. No wonder “we don’t have any money”.
But more than money, we’ve lost something infinitely more precious.
– TREVOR R. SHEPHERD