I would like to take this opportunity to extend a happy 50th Anniversary of Independence to all my fellow Barbadians both at home and in the diaspora. Our country Barbados, with an area of just 166 sq miles and a population of around 280,000, may be little more than a small dot on the geographical map but it is hard to deny how far we have come from a small British colony prior to November 30, 1966.
Barbados lacks any real natural resources. But thanks to the steady hand of successive governments, we became a country that former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, once described as “punching above its weight”. We are known as the inventors of road tennis, home to the third oldest Parliament in the world, the birthplace of international superstar Rihanna, the greatest cricketer the world has ever seen Sir Garfield Sobers and the inventor of the precursor to the search engine Alan Emtage, just to name a few.
We cultivated a reputation both in the Caribbean and abroad as a country with an enviable level of social development, respect for the rule of law, good governance, a strong democratic tradition, a 99% literacy rate, and a well-educated people who make our country proud wherever we roam. We punch above our weight on social indicators, ranking high on the Human Development Index. We are classified by the World Bank as a high income non-OECD country. In our 50 years of independence, we can boast of always having peaceful transitions of power. Political assassinations, coup d’etats, dictatorships and civil wars are alien to the Barbadian way and have never occurred in our country.
On the global stage we have earned the respect of fellow countries by joining with other developing countries to provide decisive leadership on international issues affecting small island developing states such as climate change, and on issues critical to small vulnerable economies in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Like every country, Barbados is not without its challenges. The post-Global Recession years have not been kind, exposing structural weaknesses which have festered for too long and need to be addressed by decisive leadership. There are things we need to improve upon to ensure that the gains our forefathers, like the late father of independence, Errol Walton Barrow, worked hard to build, will remain for future generations. Complacency will do us no favours.
However, despite the challenges, I have no doubt we have the skills and creativity to overcome them. We just need the will. When I saw the recent newspaper article which showed some 110 people became new Barbadian citizens at the latest citizenship ceremony, it reiterated to me why we Barbadians are so proud of our country. For all its faults, there is no place like the 246. No matter where we roam, the “Rock” will always be home.
Happy 50th Anniversary of Independence, Barbados!
Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.