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THE LOWDOWN: Mauby’s rip-roaring rum shop ramble

Richard Hoad

THE LOWDOWN: Mauby’s rip-roaring rum shop ramble

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There was a green Bim not long ago where Bajans had their home; but when foreigners came and took the land, Bajan farmers had to roam.
It seems columnist Peter Laurie has big plans for our little Barbados. He wants to transform the whole island into a rip-roaring green city.
Laurie is a man of many parts. Diplomat, acclaimed expert on rum shops, author of adventurous pussycat stories.
Therein lies the problem. We never know if Laurie is attempting serious analysis, suffering rum shop excess, or simply pussyfooting in fairytale land.
But let’s take him at his word. “How can we make Barbados,” he asks, “into the most beautiful and wealthy green city in the world?”
Easy, he answers, stop reserving a large part of our land for agriculture. Laurie would hustle our farmers off to Guyana. Grow no more sugar.
Hold it there, Petey boy. Aren’t you being a bit bombastic, boldfaced even? After farmers built this country, had their windfall profits seized by Government to be used for infrastructure projects (the Port, hospital, I forget which), produced healthy food which can be checked (a Government veterinarian was appalled at the standards of hygiene in a neighbouring island which exports processed foods to Barbados), must we now relocate to make room for your Mauby city? (Mauby is Laurie’s fairytale pussycat.)
And are the Guyanese some inferior breed that we can move in and take their agricultural land?
“Our population,” continues Laurie, “will soon reach half a million”. According to World Bank data, the Barbados population, thanks to sensible family planning, has increased very gradually since 1960.
In 1960, 230 662; 1990, 259 668. In 2000 it fell to 251 656 and in 2009 rose to 255 872, no doubt due to overindulgence in our goat’s milk by young couples. Other sources put it as high as 286 705 for 2011 (probably by including the members of Laurie’s parang group).
Where then will Laurie’s 500 000 people “soon” come from? Here is a clue: he expects Government to raise oodles of money “by a hefty tax on windfall profits arising from land use conversion from agriculture”.
Such windfall profits could only be made by selling out Barbados to foreigners who will come in numbers, he hopes, to almost double our population.
The UN classifies Barbados as a water-scarce country with only slightly more available per capita than in desert nations.
As building replaces agriculture, more rainfall runs into the sea.
Half a million people means 500 000 loads of poop to dispose of per day (or 20 times that if you’re on the Dr Afrika diet). Did you mean a green Barbados, Pete, or a brown one?
Or does your “green” only apply to money, as in greenbacks? Is that all that matters, your “undreamed of levels of prosperity”?
I’m sorry, Laurie. I am a proud Barbadian small farmer living handsomely off 14 acres of land since 1977. (However, those seeing the Central Bank Governor’s car parked in my driveway earlier this week should not jump to hasty conclusions.)
You seek to frustrate the dreams of every future Barbadian who wants to make an honest living in farming. For, once destroyed, not one square foot of agricultural land can be restored.
Besides, with the global food crisis “affecting families in every nation on every continent” (source: World Food Programme), is it not utter madness to bulldoze our only means of producing food?
I see Barbados as a wonderful, yet fragile entity which needs to stick to the basics. Barbados and Guyana both attained independence in 1966.
Similar backgrounds.
Yet, according to a Caribbean Development Bank report, “four decades later the level of real per capita income in Barbados is almost 225 times that of Guyana, while Barbados’ human development index in 2008 ranked it the highest in the Caribbean and Guyana’s index the second lowest”.
We all know which country went for pie-in-the-sky grandiose adventures.
Finally let me quote the CEO of a major Canadian offshore company who lives here and loves it. Says Brenda P: “To see the island taken over and changed by huge ;foreign capital investment would be a terrible crime.”
Amen! My God is good!