Prime Minister’s Address To The Nation
Fellow Barbadians, friends and well wishers, one of the most important commitments I made to the people of Barbados on taking office in January 2008, was that my Administration and I would be honest and transparent in all our deliberations.
We therefore proceeded with haste to institutionalize a system of periodic consultation, regular reporting to the public and giving an account of our stewardship to our constituents through out this blessed land.
At all times we have kept you fully informed of the challenges we face as a nation, sought your counsel and then taken decisive action.
We have done so again and again not because we are afraid to do what we have been mandated to do, but because it makes sense to tread carefully in a volatile, inter-connected global situation, in which forces emanating outside our jurisdiction and beyond our control can have a devastating effect on what we do in a small, open economy and society like Barbados.
We have been frank with you and sought your advice and support for every critical decision we have made – simply because this form of participatory governance has become the norm in stable democracies.
I am mindful of the fact that leaders of the G8 and G20 countries, at their meetings in Toronto, Canada, stressed the fragility of the world economic recovery.
The message coming out of those meetings was that there are many risks going forward to recovery; and so there is no simple economic strategy.
Espousing half-baked ideas and shooting from the hip is totally unacceptable. Nor can past administrations rule us from their political graves. There are no solutions – only unanswered questions – to be found there.
Barbados, as part of the world economy, is constantly taking stock and doing all that is humanly possible to alleviate the suffering of those who face the risk of unemployment or losing their sources of income.
Despite the scare-mongering and the rumours, I can confirm that the economy of Barbados is still sound and the safety net which we have strengthened is proving effective.
It is an undisputed fact that Barbados is faring better than several developing and even developed countries of the world.
That does not, and should not be interpreted to mean that it is plain sailing. We have many challenges and we are focussed on meeting them head-on.
The recent austerity Budget in the United Kingdom has made clear the dangers that this modern, global recession poses even to highly developed and stable societies.
Let me remind you that we Barbadians are a creative and resilient people.
We have lived through several disasters in our past and have come out stronger and better equipped to face the future.
I am therefore very encouraged by the initiatives being undertaken by ordinary people to cut out unnecessary expenditure and to produce more of what we consume.
In particular, we have redoubled our efforts to find new markets for our flagship tourism industry.
Without being overly optimistic, I am pleased with the responses we are getting from two countries that seem to have weathered the financial and economic storm well – Canada and Brazil.
We now have to penetrate the Chinese market and the Minister of Tourism will be undertaking an initiative in a matter of days in that regard.
Last week I met with the Cabinet and all Permanent Secretaries, as promised, to monitor the first quarter performance in our fiscal affairs.
By and large, we have been meeting the targets of our Medium Term Fiscal Strategy.
This week, on Monday and yesterday, we continued our projects review with Ministries and Statutory Corporations to determine that government’s capital programmes especially in Housing, Security, Water and Sanitation and Industry are being executed in a timely and efficient manner.
Today, I am hoping to sign the Four Seasons Agreement to get that project up and running again.
We are also intensifying our negotiation of Double Taxation Treaties and recently signed a critical one with Panama.
In the spirit of honesty and frankness, I must also bring you up-to-date on my illness.
First of all, I must thank you for your prayers, text messages, greetings, cards and the like. I appreciate them immensely and my family and I have been comforted by them.
I was particularly touched by a text I received from an ordinary Barbadian.
I crave your indulgence to share it with you. It is from II Kings, Chapter 20, Verses 3 to 5:
“Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight”.
And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah, the leader of
My people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: ‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you’….”
I have drawn comfort from the fact that Barbados I have the honour to lead is still a caring and loving community – despite our many diverse differences and interests.
During the past few weeks I have undergone observation, tests and medication. My doctors then put me on a rigorous dietary regime which did cause me to lose weight.
This was necessary and I know that you all have seen the changes.
I have not completed my regime of treatment and therefore there is nothing significant to report at this time.
Shortly, an evaluation will take place to determine if I need surgery. It may be a complex and serious procedure.
I acknowledge that I have been operating at a reduced pace.
I do not think it is fair for me to ask Barbados to move at my reduced pace.
I reckon that it will be a few weeks before I am, God willing, able to discharge my functions in a manner that is required in the circumstances.
Accordingly, I am requesting the Nation’s forbearance as I have decided to take two months leave from my duties as Prime Minister.
This time will be spent outside of Barbados.
Naturally the Deputy Prime Minister will act as Prime Minister throughout my absence…and I am devolving on him the authority to make whatever decisions he deems necessary to keep the social and economic ship of state on even keel.
The Hon. Freundel Stuart has been carrying out the duties of Prime Minister of Barbados on several occasions during the past two years.
He has performed these duties with distinction and has lived up to the great expectations that this nation has always had of him.
He certainly has my undisputed confidence and respect and that of the entire Cabinet and the members of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament.
As Attorney General he commands the greatest admiration and reverence of the legal fraternity.
The Public Service of Barbados has a reputation for dedication to service throughout the changing times.
I have every reason to believe that, in these circumstances, my absence from this country will have minimal effect on the efficiency and effectiveness of government institutions.
These are testing times for me, my family and for Barbados.
As I embark on one of the most trying periods of my life, I ask you to rally around the causes for which I have fought throughout my career as a youth leader, a lawyer and a political leader.
These causes can be summed up in the simple desire to take Barbados to the next level of development.
I believe that every Barbadian deserves the opportunity to make a greater contribution to the development of our beloved country and the right to share in the resources that we create together.
We are on the threshold of making that great leap forward to a happy, contented and more caring society.
These are the final examinations before we qualify.
I leave Barbados in a matter of hours, knowing full well that I leave the Government of this country in good hands.
I eagerly look forward, with the help of the Almighty and your support and prayers, to returning to my post in the near future.
In the meantime please continue to pray for me, my family and our great nation.
Fate has brought me to this point in my life.
And I know that God will never take us to a place from which His Almighty power and loving mercies cannot deliver us.
Thank you all…. And may God Bless Barbados.