WHAT MATTERS MOST: Get up and go!
It is apparently not yet obvious that a society, especially a small one, cannot lose half of its youth for over a decade or two and prosper or alternatively continue on its merry way without reference to that reality.
The gender composition of tertiary institutions is only a symptom of a much bigger problem that is not being recognized or admitted. Societies prosper because each generation is supposed to be better than the previous one.
Education has been the springboard for the social mobility of many a Barbadian who was born in the village and now lives in the heights and terraces.
It is still the springboard if the country has to compete for a future since there are very few other resources to exploit that will create wealth.
The notion that a government of Barbados is and will always be able to afford the social provisions demanded by the society is a very false one.
The government is limited by the capacity of the people to pay taxes and so if the pool from which to extract such resources diminishes then the government’s capacity diminishes.
Barbados has gone way beyond its limit. This is the essence of the fiscal crisis.
Furthermore, the loss of half of the youth, whose full potential will not be realized, compromises the country’s future limits in many ways – socially, politically, economically, culturally and spiritually.
There are more males than females in Barbados under the age of 25; this is why more boys than girls sit the “11-Plus Exam” every year.
If this is a fact, which it is, then why are females outnumbering males at tertiary educational institutions by a ratio of almost four to one?
It does not require a survey to observe the advance of the females: the increased female participation rate in the labour force, the enrollment at the university, the gender of those being called to the bar, the changing composition of the accounting profession and almost all other professions.
But the females are simply doing exactly what is expected of them in a progressive society and what is required of them for an economy to progress.
I first highlighted this matter of the young males in the society some eight years ago in a budget reply and it is now more serious than it was then.
The decline in cricket is linked to the matter of the males. The matter is magnified in a period of economic recession. The social issues are amplified. The politics is restricted and restrictive. The culture is compromised.
All in all, the future is frightening if a country with already limited resources is further depleted.
After only 44 years of independence, the country is displaying symptoms similar to a river in its early stage of maturity, where it is too weak to cut through what is ahead of it and is forced to choose the path of least resistance.
This explains why the river bed is U-shaped and not V-shaped as it is in its youthful stage and more so why the river has to meander. The country seems devoid of energy!
While a river may be excused for taking the path of least resistance because it relies only on its physical strength to go forward, there is no such excuse for a people whose progress to date has been on the basis of its intellectual capacity and the capacity of its leadership.
Our pride comes from our ability to think while our industry comes from our ability to work; the two are inseparable.
This country once resisted the International Monetary Fund.
This country once resisted the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Now this country seems prepared to lie prostrate in the face of economic challenges which are mostly home-grown and in the path of international institutions that are about numbers and not growth.
For obvious reasons, we cannot lose our youth. Fortunately, we can change our leadership.
• Clyde Mascoll is a professional economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party spokesman on the economy.