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Bajans ‘need’ helping hand


Tony Best

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THE DRUMBEAT of depressing financial news of Barbados has been so steady in recent times that it may soon cease to shock or surprise many.
Frequent business failures; rising unemployment; the laying off of about 3 000 public workers in the first quarter of next year; the downgrading of the nation’s credit rating to junk bond status by Wall Street; and the Freundel Stuart administration’s abrupt decision to withdraw a (US) $250 million bond issue from the financial markets are but a handful of indicators that things are getting worse instead of improving.
So, when hundreds of Bajans accepted an invitation to attend a recent gala organized by the Coalition for the Barbados Association of Central Florida in Orlando to celebrate the 47th anniversary of Barbados’ independence and invited Mia Mottley, the Opposition Leader, to deliver the feature address, many in the audience probably expected the former deputy prime minister to pummel the government for its “inept” management of the economy and to speak about how the Barbados Labour
Party would have done things differently.
High road
Instead, she took what some considered “the high road” in line with the occasion.
“It was a very inspiring presentation,” said Dr Dale Husbands, dean of business and information technology at Valencia Community College, a 60 000 student tertiary- level institution in Central Florida. “It was not about bashing the government. Instead, it was about what we in the diaspora can do to assist our country. It wasn’t a political speech and it was well received.”
Husbands is the Coalition’s president and a driving force behind many philanthropic ventures  that help charitable causes in Barbados.
In her speech, Mottley touched on some of the “difficult times” Barbados was experiencing.
“Because technology affords us instantaneous communication, you are as well briefed as well as those who live in Barbados in relation to daily occurrences and the news about what transpires,” she told the gathering. “Now is not the time for heavy political speeches. Suffice it to say that how we respond in the next three to six months will depend on what kind of nation we have at 50, 60 and 70” years old.
Children lives
“We are at that juncture in the road where the decisive participation of all who are prepared to hold up Barbados is now needed,” she asserted in her pitch to the diaspora. “We will also require that it is not only in areas to build out the economy, create opportunities for wealth and to allow you to move to the next generation, but there is a distinct possibility that if people don’t do what is required of us at this point, the natural expectation that your children’s lives would be better than yours may not be a reality.”
She said that a “veritable social” revolution had taken place in Barbados in more than 70 years and both political parties were responsible for the success.  It was a peaceful revolution “that enabled  tens of thousands of Barbadians to come out of that poverty.”
But things have changed in recent times in recent years.
“We have now recognition that there are still too many people who are three to six months’ pay or lack of pay away from poverty. If there is a massive increase in unemployment all of a sudden people’s houses and mortgages will be at risk. If there is a massive increase in unemployment and if the state can’t meet the basic needs in terms of health care, social care and welfare we will see people not being able to enjoy the things which we have taken for granted.”
That’s where Bajans living abroad “may come,” to offer a “helping hand” to those in need.
“In the next 12 months in particular Barbadians at home are going to need the active encouragement and support of their brothers and sisters, their cousins, friends and family to be able to help us get through these rough seas in which we have found ourselves,” she went on.         
Seeing signs
“We are already seeing the signs of it in respect of those who, regrettably, are not able to meet the needs of their families in the same way that they would have because of loss of jobs or because of other circumstances which are not as readily available given the straightened fiscal circumstances of government.”
As she saw it, Barbadians must not only talk the talk but “walk the walk,”.
The Coalition, founded in 1990 by Cheryl Payne, is a social organization that brings together Bajans in Central Florida and its membership has grown from 10 to more than 150. Its officers are Ralph Bowen, vice president; Walter Monroe, treasurer; Rodney Marshall, assistant treasurer; Natasha Forbes-Thorne, Tyrell pile and Ryan Campbell.
Awards were presented by the Coalition to Ken Beckles and Barney Jones for their work in the Orlando community. There was entertainment by Anderson “Blood” Armstrong, the Fearing Sisters and by “Lottie & Mable.” The DJ was Charlie Brown.

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