Commentary & Analysis
Upping our game
Patrick Hoyos
Jan 19, 2020

I was takin’ my grandson to school the other morning  when we got stuck in terrible traffic at one of the roundabouts. I thought, “Wait, another We Gatherin’ event?”

Then I realised that we usually leave much earlier and have almost no traffic in front of us on the way, so this was just another weekday morning in Barbados when the kids are at school.

I’m all for gatherin’, so let’s hope this year-long celebration of, shall we say, movement of Baje people, works out well for the country and we don’t all have jet lag by September.

The fact is, festivals are now moving targets that we pick, sometimes off the shelf, to help stimulate economic activity in one sector or the other. This year Jamaica has two celebration-worthy events but they are one-offs, unless they can find a way to resurrect them for perennial service: Bob Marley’s 75th birthday and the launch of the new James Bond flick, which will be Daniel Craig’s last in the role of 007.

Remember that first Bond movie featuring a Jamaica that looked like it was still a British colony although it was released in 1963, the year following Jamaica’s independence from said “mother country” (because it was first published as a novel in 1958)?

In the last few years Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. began applying “The Year of (something)” to Barbados, and upping the game in these sectors - for example, the year of sports, or food, or “wellness and soft adventure.” We got to end of 2019 and I still didn’t really know what was a ‘soft adventure’.

But at the same time her government is marketing this We Gatherin’ theme with talk of summertime get-togethers - sort of a soft Crop Over, maybe - Prime Minister Mia Mottley says Barbados must “up its game” if it wants to become world class.

That meant, she said, not only constructing new buildings but also investing in the training of citizens. This, my friends, is the very definition of a hard adventure.  

Ok, so we have the government trying to develop two major public themes at the same time. One: Chill and relax. Two: Work harder to compete globally!

I am not saying it can’t be done but as a simple person who has a hard time keeping one thing in his head far less double that number, I must say I am at least intrigued.

Putting on her business hat at the re-opening ceremony of The Palm Terrace Restaurant of the Fairmont Royal Pavilion Hotel, in St. James, the PM told her audience that Barbados’ business as a nation was to foster investment at all levels of the economy.

According to the BGIS, she noted that owners of The Fairmont Royal Pavilion Group were interested in expanding their presence in Barbados’ tourism sector, and, as prime minister, she took that as “an absolute statement of confidence in what we are doing, (and) that we are going in the right direction.”

But moving in the right direction also meant creating opportunities for investment for ordinary Barbadians and developing national training initiatives to allow, in her words,“every one of us to up our game.”

See, we have to learn to up our game even as we chill. I’m breaking a sweat just sipping this Barbados rum and ginger ale as I write this.  

So perhaps a median line can be found in another We Gatherin’ initiative, the Ideas Forum, which started last Wednesday evening, with the gatherin’ taking place at the St. Lucy Rectory.

According to the BGIS, the aim of the forum is to give Barbadians an opportunity to share their ideas with Prime Minister Mia Mottley about how to improve things in the country.

The theme of the monthly forum is “Future Barbados: The Path to World Class” and is described by the government as “a national conversation” which is intended to “unearth various concepts, policies and platforms that can accelerate Government's stated goal of transforming Barbados to be the best country for its people,” according to the GIS.

I didn’t know transformative policies were buried somewhere, like bodies. I thought they coalesced out of the ether as creative spirits came together to share ideas.

So, I must say it seems like we are going in several directions at the same time, as the government tries to release some of the frustration and feelings of despair which were definitely buried in our psyches after years of watching our can-do country sink further into the economic doldrums as the last government pursued over and over the same policies which they could see were not working.

I think we as a nation have suffered a loss of confidence which maybe we didn’t even know we had, a sureness of step that has now been replaced by cautiousness that has slowed our economy to a stop.

Where are the outrageous entrepreneurs like Neville Rowe, who turned Haggatt Hall into a mass market shopping centre almost single-handedly through his unerring vision? Perhaps some of that courage will be unearthed as the prime minister seeks a way forward, but the cynic in me is not holding his breath.

Jan 19, 2020
Commentary & Analysis

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