The Government of Barbados has signalled its intention to publicly acknowledge the impact of emigration to Panama, and the remittance of ???Panama money???, on the Barbadian economy and society.
This disclosure came on Sunday from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, in his address to members of the Barbadian diaspora in Panama, at a town hall meeting at the Hotel RIU Plaza in Panama City.
The meeting, which attracted close to 300 persons, many of whom were first, second and third generation Barbadian descendants, was hosted by Prime Minister Stuart, who is currently on a working visit to the Republic of Panama.
Also in attendance were the Mayor of Panama City, Jose Bland?n Figueroa; Deputy Mayor and fourth generation Panamanian of Barbadian descent, Raisa Banfield; members of Panama???s Foreign Ministry and Barbadians residing in Panama.
Prime Minister Stuart explained that the economic and social conditions of post-slavery Barbados were ???at an all-time low???, forcing workers to endure reduced wages, irregular employment or unemployment.
???So, that was the context which induced the massive migration of about a third of our population, and it was that economic and social context which was so positively affected by the remittances which the migration generated,??? he noted.
These remittances, he pointed out, with an estimated value in today???s terms of at least US$20 million, ???gave breathing space to an economy that seemed in terminal decline???.
Mr. Stuart continued: ???With some justification, therefore, it can be said that the migration of Barbadians to Panama fully illustrated George Roberts??? [Director of the United States Mint] conclusion that Barbadian emigration was ???a valuable foreign investment???.
“And because it was emigration to Panama which first made this very apparent, my Government thinks it necessary to give full public acknowledgement of that fact. Therefore, we are consulting with other agencies, particularly the Barbados Museum and Historical Society; about the precise form that public acknowledgement should take.???
The Prime Minister hinted that the tribute could come in the form of a monument to Barbadian migration to Panama, which would be unveiled in Barbados during celebrations for the country???s 50th anniversary of Independence, commencing in November this year and continuing through to November 30, 2016.
Mr. Stuart also hailed the decision to twin Historic Bridgetown with Panama City, which was expected to be finalised during the official opening of the Crop Over Festival in June 2015, as another step taken ???to ensure that we build on the historic links between Panama and Barbados???.
In addition, he told members of the Barbadian diaspora that Panama Day, August 15, would be observed annually as a National Day of celebration and reflection on the contribution of Barbadians to the construction of the Panama Canal.
???The Day will be celebrated with a range of appropriate activities commensurate with the significance of the day – not limited only to celebratory messages, discussions and cultural events marking the significance of the migration to Barbados??? past and future development.
“It is anticipated that Panama Day will help to perpetuate the memory of the Barbadian contribution to the construction of the Panama Canal and the contribution of ???Panama Money??? to the building of the Barbados that we know today,??? Mr. Stuart reasoned.
The Barbados delegation includes Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Sonja Welch; Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Simone Rudder; Barbados’ Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, John Beale; and the Honorary Consul for Barbados in Panama, Dr. Camilo Alleyne.