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SEEN UP NORTH – PM holds his own in NY

Tony Best

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It was a relatively cool Friday evening in Manhattan when Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, stood at the head of a receiving line in the Government’s offices in Manhattan.
Ostensibly, he was welcoming scores of Bajans, diplomatically speaking, to a piece of Barbados in New York City on his first trip to the United Nations (UN) after taking over the island’s leadership, succeeding the late David Thompson.
In town to address the UN, first during a high-level meeting convened to focus international attention on non-communicable diseases around the world, and secondly to deliver Barbados’ annual foreign policy statement on several key issues before the world body – climate change, the global financial crisis, Palestinian-Israeli conflict, sustainable development, Haiti, Cuba and the trafficking in small arms and ammunition among them, Stuart met and greeted scores of people at a reception.
Many of the world’s leaders did exactly that with their own nationals.
But the Prime Minister did more than that.
He delivered a 20-minute address in which he sought to explain a pillar of his administration’s approach to running the country.
“The nation Barbados is not just an economy, it is also a society,” he said as Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean, Minister of Health Donville Inniss, Barbados’ UN Ambassador Joseph Goddard, Consul-General in New York Lennox Price and several Caribbean foreign ministers, deputy prime ministers and ambassadors looked on.
But what did he mean by his philosophical mantra?
 “A very sinister tendency has developed in international politics and that virus has infected the Caribbean, a tendency to evaluate a country in terms only of Second Standard arithmetic,” said Stuart.
“I don’t have to convince anybody in this room or outside of it that I can add, subtract and divide, I settled those issues at primary school. So when I hear politicians at home and other parts of the region spieling out a diet of percentages and fractions to the people of the region, rather than discussing with the people of the region how they see the region developing and how they see people’s lives being improved, I take exception to that.
“You cannot communicate with me how many people in Barbados have cellphones, how many people have cars, even how many people have built homes or what investments people have.
“Because if everybody in Barbados who wanted a car had one, and if everybody in Barbados who wanted a cellphone had one, and if everybody who wanted a piece of land had a piece of it, and if everybody who wanted a house had one, that does not mean we would have a society in Barbados.
“A society is not held together by those things. It is held together by a core of values which require people to know how to live with one another and the so-called practical men who believe that all politics is about ministering to people’s material requirements have it all wrong,” he went on.
“The greatest leaders of history have been the leaders who have ministered to people’s intellectual and moral requirements. They are the ones who leave a legacy which historians notice.
“Therefore, in addition to doing all the things we need to do to improve the standard of living of the people of Barbados, we would also be committing ourselves and we have also committed to improving the quality of life of the people of Barbados, because as far as we are concerned, Barbados is not just an economy, it is also a society.”
It was in that same speech that he said his administration would give Barbadians abroad a chance to vie for top positions when they become vacant at home, and to support his position, he cited the recent recruitment of Marston Gibson as Barbados’ Chief Justice.
Interestingly, the Prime Minister, who is a member of the UN’s Secretary General’s High Level Panel On Sustainability, and attended one of its meetings while he was in New York, cited the world body’s ranking of Barbados as the 42nd country out of about 170 nations and territories surveyed when it came to global living standards.
Actually, as THE?NATION reported about a year ago, the UN had placed Barbados among the 16 countries or areas outside of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the rich nations’ club, as a “developed” country, simply in terms of human development, not economic strength. Stuart didn’t mention the 2010 developed nation designation, preferring instead to describe Barbados as the top developing country.
Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Malta, Liechtenstein, Cyprus, Slovenia, Hong Kong and Monaco were also on that “developed” country list.
The designation was determined by UN experts when they looked at Barbados’ social and economic pattern of development – per capita income, life expectancy, levels of education, gender equality, access to clean water and sanitation, and a host of other factors. And yes, numbers, percentages and other arithmetical tools of measurement were taken into consideration.