The growing disquiet which has emerged over the concessions offered to facilitate Sandals’ entry into Barbados has introduced another dimension of the failure of the post-colonial state, as the economic crisis continues to deepen.
Prior to the Sandals investment revelations, the debate has revolved around the difficulty of the state in maintaining past social services. However, with the Sandals arrangements, the discussion has now moved away from the state’s failure to fulfil public expectations, to its defencelessness in the face of demands from international capital.
Interestingly, this abandonment of the state’s social responsibilities and its simultaneous capitulation before capitalist demands is being applauded by sections of the business class. As if sensing the inherent “injustice” in the Sandals deal, and as if recognizing the need for “justification”, these elements have embarked on an unsolicited public relations campaign to sing the praises of Sandals.
Similarly, where sections of the tourism class have expressed concerns over the Sandals concessions, their objections have been levelled, not on the nature and extent of the concessions, but on the partiality of their application. Indeed, they have put the Government on notice that the Sandals deal has set a benchmark for their own future expectations for themselves.
In a context where the Government continues to suffer from disappointing revenue returns, this escalating demand for more and more giveaways by the section which has labelled itself the “engine of growth” is a worrying sign, not only that future stagnation is likely, but of their extreme dependence on the state, which their “engine of growth” boast has never been able to mask.
Indeed, so deep is the economic crisis of the Barbadian state that the economic debate is now reduced to a “dog eat dog” begging exercise, in which competing levels of self-interest are falling over themselves to desperately extract greater levels of concessions from the state.
Thus, the business class celebrates the removal of free education and other services from the public, while the students fight in isolation. Local tourism interests applaud the social reversals while decrying the granting of concessions to foreign capital and demand the same for themselves.
Foreign capital, sensing the desperation of the state, demands all or nothing and gets its way; and the Government, having abandoned its ideology, and desperate to attract investment, celebrates a capitulation as a victory.
The unacknowledged consequence, however, is the continuing loss of legitimacy of the state, through the removal of the “veil” of the state as a defender of all interests.
As the crisis deepens, and as the state is forced to exist for capital at the expense of everyone else, the reality of state failure is likely to become more and more self-evident, particularly where the promise of growth continues to be elusive, and where Sandals is exposed as hype.
Only time will tell.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs. Email [email protected]