WILD COOT: Not enough babies
WE GOT a problem. We are not producing enough babies. We may be actively engaged in the process day and night, but the end product is insufficient. And the sad thing is that the Wild Coot cannot help these days whereas in 2010 (Culture At Risk) and 2013 (Children Deficit), he was still capable (barely).
Suggestions are coming left, right and centre. One prominent man of the cloth suggested that we incentivise married women to have more babies. I am surprised at the suggestion of payment for sex (put it however you like since when married, you have to forsake all others), especially to married women. Another fellow, a preacher too, “lesscounted” our great efforts at family planning. But the monetary reward idea today may be something to think about as reproduction totters around 1.56 children per couple married and unmarried.(Required rate to retain “culture” 2.1).
We do have a problem and the article appearing in the SUNDAY SUN of August 21 is cause for concern. Our death rate is not keeping pace with our birth rate by a long way (2 440 smiling stiffs to 3 366 stork presents – 2010 figures). We have to get the death rate up. Non-communicable diseases may help to balance the figures. While the Wild Coot is thankful that the average life span of men has expanded, enough youngsters are not choosing to come into the workforce to compensate for the required support to the National Insurance for older folk.
So we do not only have a debt problem, an increase in cost of living problem and a foreign exchange problem, but also a procreation problem. That fellows are developing impotence at 40 is not helping. Sad! The good old days! The Wild Coot now calls on all women to free up as a national cultural disaster looms and they must play their part at this momentous consummation.
Perhaps the seemingly unwise call for payment to be administered to women for them to increase procreation can be improved with an incentive of an offer in foreign currency, something practised in other places. However, we must then ensure that the foreign currency stays within the country and not be frittered away by shopping in a foreign port or family remittances from Barbados by itinerant foreign workers.
While the argument rages, the former director of the Family Planning Association muscled in with a front page rejection of the idea of payment to married women. His example seems a tad heavy, “if a woman decides to have 12 children”. He does not limit his argument to married women, and the 12 children seem in keeping with the recent pleas for help from women with several children from multiple partners.
Something has to be done in order to breach the dilemma. We either do like the Europeans, that is, we invite neighbours to swell our ranks, or we decide to resign to the destiny of old people fending for themselves.
The Wild Coot’s latest wrangle with a big-up has brought no joy. Surely the influx of people (especially young people) from the other parts of the Caribbean can be of help as they come to Barbados principally seeking work. The argument that they should seek health insurance is a difficult one to fathom as even the good folk at BARP have found themselves struggling to be health insured. If people come here, contribute to taxes and the National Insurance, and particularly the health levy aspect of it and the health aspect of the NSRL (National Social Responsibility Levy), they should be entitled to whatever health care Barbadians enjoy. The question of reciprocity from other parts is irrelevant. Barbados once had standards, but . . . .Oh the female minister now assures us that foreign workers (perhaps Chinese workers too) will be given health benefits now that the Wild Coot has been chastised for bringing to public attention the seeming disparity of treatment of non-Barbadian workers in having access to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital or the polyclinics.
Instructive are the findings of the research of the Boston Consulting Group with regard to sustainable economic development assessment in 160 countries. While we were able to boast about our per capita income, hence our standard of living, we seem to have made little progress over the last few years. They rate us among the ten countries that have made the least progress in converting economic growth into well-being.
It is true that our Government has always been at pains to remind us that ours is not only an economy but also a society, and that we can suck on Government nipples.
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email: [email protected]