Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, chatting with a rapt audience ofstudents of the Christ Church Foundation School. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Young people have the power to take the issue of economic diversification out of the realm of "political bantering" by positioning themselves to transform the economy while they are still at school.

Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, made this assertion today, while addressing students of the Christ Church Foundation School during their annual Independence programme.

He told students that their career choices now could determine how economically stable Barbados will be in the future. The Minister pointed out that Barbados was about to award licences for offshore drilling and this was one area where young people needed to look for careers.

"Initial studies show there significant amount of resources beneath our sea. Our resources in the ocean that are yet to be discovered far extend the area of Barbados. If we are to become an oil producing country some of you have to get into the business of oil exploration, some of you have to think about careers in the oil industry.

"If we are talking about these things, you have to begin to position yourself now. And, if you do that, you’ll be able to dismiss some of the discussion now about our economic problems because you would be dreaming and envisioning your role whether it will be in the oil industry, in the area of ICTs, in the area of modern agricultural practices, alternative energy or in the area of emerging new technologies. You would have been positioning yourself to help to transform our economy and take the issue of economic diversification out of the realm of political bantering," Mr. Lashley stressed.

He added that there were no quick "pie-in-the-sky" fixes to the economy which, at the moment, was largely dependent on tourism and the financial services sector. The Minister explained that the solution lied in "our own self-reliance".

He admonished students that it was their responsibility to bring to life all that Independence symbolised. Mr. Lashley said the national anthem and the national pledge were not just mere words but serious commitments of nationhood and applied to every Barbadian irrespective of age.

"All of you have a responsibility to ensure that the economic problems that we face today are not the economic problems that we face tomorrow. No one, not even your teachers… can remove the responsibility that you have for your own destiny. As you go back to your communities, your villages this evening and you join in the celebration of our 46th year of Independence, I want you to understand that very soon from now, you will have to be sending a message of hope to some girl or boy in some school, in some community as to what Independence means to that person.

"I hope that this magical word ???self-reliance’ can become a bold challenge etched in your brain that transforms your thinking and can cause you to be one of the engines of economic growth in Barbados. It is not beyond us," Mr. Lashley emphasised.


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