EDITORIAL: Work together on 50th celebrations
ALL BARBADIANS WOULD likely agree that our 50th anniversary of Independence should be commemorated in a significant manner. Where they may differ is on what should be held, and how much should be spent given the persistent harsh economic conditions this country is facing.
Some peoples’ negative attitude towards the $7 million allocated for the celebrations seems to be influenced by the high level of taxes being paid though social services, like garbage collection, continue to deteriorate. So the sum is viewed as more wastage.
Unfortunately too, this matter has become mired in the intractable partisan polarisation that characterises most issues in Barbados today. Therefore, what should be a truly national celebration of our development as an independent people, has instead become a political football.
So, is $7 million too much to spend on our 50th anniversary of Independence? And what alternatives to the advertised events can there be?
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is adamant the celebrations are worth it and has castigated the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) for attributing negative motives to the exercise.
“This is a one-time opportunity for the country and it is an opportunity we have to seize now. It’s not a period for extravagance and uncontrolled merriment, . . . it is also a time for reflection because Barbados has to look at itself, we have to understand where it is we came from, we have to understand where we are and we have to be clear where it is we are going,” said Stuart during debate on the 2016/2017 Estimates.
The BLP’s general secretary, Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, however accused Government of excluding the Opposition from being part of the planning and execution of any of the activities, and evident partisanship.
He said the celebrations should be a national effort as the ruling Democratic Labour Party governed for 26 of the 50 years, while the BLP competently managed the country for the other 24.
Walcott said he was not arguing whether the $7 million was enough or too much. Rather, Government should be mindful that the commemoration was taking place in the face of major social development challenges in the health, education, housing and sanitation sectors, among others.
On social media, some contributors not known for being partisan have taken issue with the sum because of the heavy taxation and economic challenges facing average Barbadians. One suggested alternatives like issuing 50 scholarships, assisting 50 people living on the poverty line, or helping 50 homeless people. There was also the suggestion from Government Senator David Durant of releasing 50 prisoners.
Obviously Government has the power to do what it intends regardless of public opinion. But if these golden anniversary celebrations are to be meaningful and not perceived as partisan and more waste of money, the public should have been allowed to buy into the exercise through offering their input on some aspect of it.
It is not too late for that.
If nothing else, these celebrations should bring us together as a people – not further divide us.