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Barbados will soon be celebrating its 53rd year of independence. Approximately 185 years ago, we celebrated emancipation from physical slavery. Refrains of “Lick an lock-up done wid, hurray fuh Jin-Jin” permeated the air as Barbadians stepped into unprecedented territory, doubtlessly terrified and exhilarated all at once.
Fast-forward to 1966 when we lowered the Union Jack flag and raised our blue, yellow and black, we once again made our mark on history’s page by symbolising yet another brave step into unchartered territory.
In both scenarios, there were many that feared whether we were ready for these next steps; whether we were capable of handling emancipation or independence. There were many who would have preferred for things to remain as they were, as this was what they were accustomed to.
We have been through standpipes, telephone booths, vinyl record players, oil lamps and many other fascinating remnants that tell the story of who we were and what we have evolved from. Some may argue that in our fight for advancement, we have lost the beauty of our community spirit. We have embraced our new technologies and way of life and sacrificed the human side of ourselves. We hear this argument used as justification to slow down progress and to keep things as they are.
I strongly believe that Barbados is at another crossroads. We are at a stage where the history books can either speak of our further economic and social demise or our triumphant rise from the ashes into an age of creative, financial, technological and social advancement. Heroes and heroines are born out of adversity and there is truly a myriad of opportunities for Barbadians to rise up and take this country to the next level.
There are opportunities to abolish the perception that corruption is tolerated and can even thrive in this country. Barbados and Syria remain as the only two of 185 countries that have taken no further action since signing the United Nations Convention against corruption. The Integrity Legislation that was promised upon immediately forming the Government, to fight and punish corruption and hold Ministers and Board Chairpersons accountable for their actions has missed yet another deadline even though it has been acknowledged that this is a key component in moving the country forward.
There is strong evidence that corrupt practices lead to wastage and mismanagement of public funds, funds that we have all sacrificed to earn. Therefore, it remains of paramount importance that this first step in stamping out corrupt practices becomes a priority and I look forward to the day that I can retire this plea from my articles.
There are opportunities to change the cultural attitude towards productivity and efficiency in the way we do business or simply conduct ourselves. To elevate the idea that culture is not limited to NIFCA or Crop Over but permeates every aspect of the Barbadian lifestyle, that it becomes the way we are identified in everything that we do.
In the same way that Combermerians are recognised for their school spirit, Jamaicans are recognised for their cultural pride and Japanese are recognised for their efficiency, what will Barbados be known for? How will we stand out in this world aside from being the home country of the international superstar and Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty?
There are opportunities to improve the use of our technology beyond social media and entertainment whilst simultaneously implementing protocols to ensure that electronic data is protected and does not fall into the wrong hands. To reduce the time spent waiting in line to conduct business when a great deal of the population is ready to conduct business online.
There are opportunities to tackle many of the issues that we have historically been reacting to by proactively devising strategic plans to address violence, power and water outages, port delays, public transport issues, garbage woes and so on. Once the public can see that there is a public, comprehensive plan in place with clearly assigned persons that are held accountable for the various aspects of its success, this would reduce the knee jerk reactions that we have grown used to. Rather, we would address the overarching plan if new information comes to light that must be addressed and incorporated.
This independence season, I hope that we as Barbadians can reflect on which side of history we would like to stand. We can either be the advocates for positive change and champions behind the real progress made on this rock or we can sit amongst those who spread fear, destructive criticism and negativity because their actual fear is their new place or relevance in this evolving world.
*Krystle Howell, CPA, CIA, COSO, ALMI, ACS, aka Mavis, is an Internal Auditor by profession, avid artist and a lover of dance.