Prime Minister David Thompson??
Fellow Barbadians, at home and abroad, it gives me tremendous pleasure to bring you greetings on the 43rd Anniversary of our Independence. It is indeed a privilege for me to share with you some special messages from the soul of the nation at a time of global instability, uncertainty and change.
Barbados is no stranger to change. Forty-three years ago, a highly representative and responsible Government in Barbados made the critical decision to become an Independent nation within the Commonwealth. It was a time of dramatic change throughout the world. The two leading world powers were on a war footing. The Federation of the West Indies had disintegrated and the two largest islands had opted for Independence. Many questioned Barbados’ decision. The naysayers argued that it was not viable for such a small nation to succeed in a highly competitive world in which size and natural resources were considered vital for national development.
??However, under the leadership of the extra-ordinary visionary, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, this small island embarked on a journey towards true Independence and the realization of the dreams of those who went before. He felt the people’s yearning for the achievement and enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms which had been denied them for over 300 years. This vision of Barbados was first articulated during the turbulent 1960’s in the march towards Independence. It was again expressed 20 years later in Errol Barrow’s famous "Mirror Image" speech of May 1986 as follows:
"What kind of mirror image do you have of yourself? Let me tell you what kind of mirror image I have of you, or what the Democratic Labour Party has of you. The DLP has an image that the people of Barbados would be able to run their own affairs, to pay for the cost of running their own country, to have an education system which is as good as what can be obtained in any industrialized country, anywhere in the world"
This virtuous cycle became the model for developing our people to become competent managers of our institutions and our resources and to become productive workers in their chosen careers, through a first class education system. The strategy was to harness all the resources that the country had at its disposal to put this nation on a trajectory of growth and development.
A better-educated and trained workforce was expected to bolster new industries in light manufacturing, to help develop the flourishing tourism industry, to establish a range of service industries to complement agriculture and diversify the economy. In these ways they would create the wealth to finance our social services.
The clear message was that we should pursue excellence in whatever we did, and in so doing overcome all the hurdles in our way.
Well, as they say, the rest is history. Barbados has approached the hurdles of unemployment, crime and violence, political tribalism and apathy, cultural penetration, the erosion of family values, community disintegration and reactionary thoughts with confidence and optimism – even if not always with 100% success.
In its relatively short history as an independent nation, it has overcome a succession of hurdles in every area of life and has succeeded in transforming itself from being a neglected colonial outpost, totally dependent on one-crop agriculture, to become the most advanced developing country in the world.
Today, Barbados leads the pack in the quality of life it affords its citizens and residents. It has consistently pursued and achieved excellence in a range of human endeavours, and has consistently scored high marks on the indices of human development, including access to decent education at all levels, to health services and to social security.
Today, Barbados has much to thank God for. Today we have much to celebrate. But we cannot become complacent.
Presently, we are confronted with one of the greatest challenges we have faced in our recent history. Just over a year ago, there was a major financial melt-down in the mighty United States of America. Large, powerful financial institutions like Lehman Brothers collapsed. In a highly interconnected and interdependent world, this crisis soon spread to other developed and developing countries. With limited access to credit, it precipitated an economic crisis which has not yet fully played itself out.
The effects of these crises on Barbados were predictable and hurtful. Tourism, our flagship industry and premier foreign exchange earner, declined significantly, with a knock-on effect on other sectors.
Your Government’s immediate response was to try to stabilize the economy, to strengthen the social safety net, to ensure that our citizens and residents do not suffer unnecessarily, and to begin to plan for recovery. I am sure that you are familiar with the policies introduced to save jobs, to give support to struggling businesses in threatened economic sectors, to protect and even enhance the social services available to our people and to help our entrepreneurs to seize any opportunity to create employment and wealth.
We have consulted extensively with the people of Barbados and reminded them that we are a resilient people who have endured many human catastrophes in the past…… and prevailed.
Today I want to reach out to all Barbadians with a simple message. Let us not consider this current recession as a disaster but as an opportunity. Let us understand our history as a race to overcome the many hurdles placed in our way. Let us honour all ten of our recognized National Heroes as leaders who have shown us how to overcome the legal, religious, social, political, economic and psychological hurdles that have been erected to retard our progress.
Let us also honour our unsung heroes who in their quiet and modest way have done their share of nation building in their homes, in their communities and in their places of work. I have in mind those ordinary people who have made sacrifices at home and abroad to ensure that their children and their children’s children have a better future.
I believe that this recession signals the second phase in our struggle for independence. I believe that the world will be a different place after this recession. I am convinced that several G20 powers will emerge from it with the capacity to produce and deliver consumer goods and services throughout the world. We therefore face the prospect of a global recovery with huge pockets of unemployment and poverty in the less developed countries of the world.
The challenge facing small island states like Barbados is to become more enterprising, to spot niches in the market place and to capitalize on them. It is a wake-up call for all of us to make a contribution to one of the last hurdles on the way to winning gold by achieving "developed country" status. It is a call to pursue excellence in the struggle for economic enfranchisement.
In the midst of our Independence celebrations this year, I therefore want to ask to all Barbadians at home and abroad to revisit and draw strength from the Barbadian vision. It is a vision of victory, of relentlessly struggling against the odds, of facing each new hurdle with confidence…… until we win the gold.??
On the 20th August 2009, this "spirit of Barbados" was demonstrated in spectacular fashion on the world stage by Ambassador Ryan McDonald Brathwaite.
As you know, this outstanding athlete, this champion 110 metres hurdler, defied the odds and won Barbados’ first gold medal in a world athletic meet.??
Thank you, Ryan, for reminding us of what we can do when we set our goals high and dig deep into our reserves to achieve them.
Fellow Barbadians and friends, Happy Anniversary of Independence! I wish you gold in all your endeavours during the coming year.
God Bless You All.
And may God Bless Barbados!
Please click here for the Independence Honours list for 2009.