EDITORIAL: Good in name and nature
The decision of our international superstar Rihanna to donate three critical pieces of equipment worth $3.5 million to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is a sure indication of how wealthier citizens can participate in a meaningful way in nation building – of a kind normally practised in the more developed countries.
Governments the world over use taxation as a means of raising revenue, which is then used to provide the kinds of services required for the improvement of society. But scarce resources may sometimes mean having to make hard choices when there are competing interests. Quite often the acquisition of necessary equipment or use of critical medical or other services may have to be deferred.
Citizens who are blessed with a more than ordinary share of this world’s riches may sometimes decide to donate a sum of money towards purchase of critical equipment or buy it themselves directly. This is known as philanthropy and is closely associated with charity. Most societies recognize major gifts so provided by naming a facility in the name of the donor, or in some other name suggested by the donor.
There is therefore nothing essentially wrong with having a facility at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital bearing the name of Rihanna’s grandmother Clara Brathwaite, who died recently. We think it quite wrong for members of the public to criticize that decision without understanding the rationale behind it.
Unfortunately, it follows the recent and contentious renaming of certain schools, and got dragged regrettably into the controversial wash. But Rihanna’s gift and the consequent renaming of the facility it will serve is of a different nature from that of relabelling ancient landmarks.
Philanthropy is to be encouraged, if only because many citizens are prepared to donate honestly earned money to the state quite often in return for merely nominal recognition of their contribution to nation building and the protection of the gift from taxation by the revenue authorities. For it seems that the law is that earnings though given away may still be taxed as the donor’s income, unless the legislation specifically excludes the gift from taxation.
In some larger countries, the idea of giving to charities is so well engrained, that the tax returns of politicians running for public office are scrutinized to establish the extent of such charitable giving. Clearly, as a young nation, we are just beginning to understand the significance of such giving and how beneficial it is to the public’s interests.
Some expatriates who have lived here partly or wholly during the years have brought this desirable and patriotic habit to our country, and we are pleased that a young person like Rihanna has set an admirable example of honouring the land of her birth, an act other successful Barbadians should follow.
It is worthy of our highest praise, and we are sure that this contribution will enable the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to deliver even better service to many afflicted Barbadians in the area of oncology and nuclear medicine.