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Address by the Rt. Hon Owen S. Arthur to Barbadian Nationals Overseas on the celebration of 40 Years of Independence

BARBADOS

Fellow Barbadians,

It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the Government and people of Barbados to extend warm greetings to all Barbadian nationals living overseas on the occasion of the Fortieth Anniversary of our Nation’s independence.

At times it seems that it was only yesterday when the teenagers of my generation watched with pride and awe as the Broken Trident rose for the first time amid the massive gathering of Barbadians at the Garrison Savannah. We may not have recognised the full import of the moment nor the enormous responsibility that sovereignty would entail, but we understood emotionally what freedom really meant.

Forty years have passed, and Barbadians have exercised that responsibility well. The remarkable stability and progress of our beloved country over four decades of nation-building is apparent to all. And there is, I am convinced, one simple underlying reason for our success: the character of our people.

And so, as I address the people of Barbados on this momentous day, I am honoured to be able, once again, to direct a special message of appreciation to all Barbadians in the Diaspora and to pay tribute to the part you have played in ensuring the progress of our Nation.

Independence Day is a special time for Barbadians everywhere as we pause to focus on our nationhood. For this our Fortieth year, we have determined that our celebrations should revolve around the theme: “A Proud Past: A World Class Future” which symbolises both where we have reached at this moment of our history and where we wish to go as a nation.

As a people, we are tremendously grateful for the contributions that Barbadians of all walks of life have made to our national development. It is for this reason that my Government decided in 1998 to name ten individuals, who over the course of our history wrote their names on our nation’s page by the indelible mark they left on our societies. Since then we have sought to celebrate their contributions by designating April 28 as National Heroes Day. We have also sought to recognise the contribution of other Barbadians through the creation and award of the Barbadian Centennial Honour to 100 Barbadians who like our National Heroes have shaped the face of our nation by their dedication to and sacrifices for our beloved country.

It is only fitting, therefore, that at this special time we pause also to reflect and give thanks for the invaluable contributions that our overseas nationals have made and continue to make to our national development. Many of your efforts are unseen and unsung, but this does not diminish their impact, or the level of our gratitude. In fact, in one area in particular, that of remittances, the contribution of the Caribbean diaspora to the G.D.P. and foreign exchange earnings of the region has been so significant as to be the subject of study and reporting by no less an agency than the Inter-American Development Bank. In other areas, your contribution is equally significant. In that regard, I also commend you for the role you play daily in profiling Barbados in your various areas of endeavour, whether in the field of business, academia, culture and the arts, tourism or sports.

As you are aware, Barbados continues to make great strides in its development. Over the first nine months of the year, the Barbados economy has grown by 3.7% propelled by strong expansion in the non-trade sectors. Construction activity, transportation, storage and communication services, as well as wholesale and other services are projected to continue to underpin growth in the non-traded sectors in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup in 2007. There has also been an increase in real tourism output reflecting a rebound in the number of long stay visitors by approximately 4.1% mainly from the UK, USA and Canada. Tourism figures for the first three quarters of 2006 suggest that arrivals from these countries have returned to their pre-2005 levels growing by 4.7%, 3.0% and 6.8% respectively. In addition there has been a growth in the number of visitors from Germany and from CARICOM. Further, it is expected that the traded sector activity will increase, particularly in the first half of 2007 as a result of increased tourist arrivals.

Our unemployment rate remains below 10% and I will be embarking on a series of initiatives to keep the inflation rate within manageable levels.

It is important that we maintain our efforts to increase our competitiveness as we prepare for globalisation. For small economies such as our own, the issue is not whether we should integrate our economies with those in the hemisphere or even globally but how we should do so and on what terms. As I indicated earlier this year, in my address to the Euromoney Investment Conference in Barbados, the countries of the Caribbean are not only the world’s smallest region, they also enjoy the dubious distinction of not being large enough for our problems to be a systemic threat to global security – hence they can be ignored – while at the same time they are so relatively successful that it is now virtually impossible to gain acceptance of our case for special treatment.

The Right Excellent Errol Barrow in his maiden speech to the 21st Session of the General Assembly United Nations, almost forty years ago, noted that “if larger countries wish to earn or to retain the confidence and respect of small countries, there will have to be a rapid change of values. They must no longer enjoy squatters’ rights in the volume and arrangement of world trade. New concepts of distribution and exchange will have to be worked out, because emergent countries will no longer be content to be hewers of wood and drawers of water while the wealth of the world flows past them”. His words to that august assembly are as relevant now as they were then. We are of the view that the new trading relationships that we are building whether they are at the WTO or with Europe must have a development dimension that will allow us to build the economic capacity that is necessary in the face of trade liberalisation. We view this as essential to the sustainable development of our peoples.

We are also firmly committed to devising indigenous strategies to promote our own sustainable development. Our involvement in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy is a deliberate attempt to create a single economic space out of fifteen disparate states so that we can realise the maximum benefits for our peoples and at the same interface more effectively with the rest of the world. We are also working towards the creation of a CARICOM Single Economy by 2008 which will facilitate, among other things, the coordination of our economic sectoral policies, the integration of our production and financial sectors, the convergence of macro economic policies, the building of a regional capital market and the harmonisation of monetary and fiscal policies.

Our overall intention is to put appropriate mechanisms in place that will allow us at the regional level to integrate our means of production in pursuit of global competitiveness and as the basis by which we can guarantee our sustainable development.

Barbados is also committed to developing a new and more productive relationship with the global investment community that will enable us to build a more competitive modern economic system in a manner that allows us to avoid the debt trap.

As we reflect on the road that we have travelled thus far and the challenges that confront us at this juncture of our history, it is important that we hold fast to those values that have served us well over the last forty years. We have made great strides in the last forty years and I am confident that we are well able, with God’s help, to overcome the obstacles that are before us. It is important that we continue to pursue a path of excellence if we are to compete successfully at the global level. Barbadians are a resilient people, a proud people and an industrious people. I am firmly of the view that we possess the national characteristics necessary to take us to the next level.

As a Government, we have prepared a National Strategic Plan which has been crafted around the words of our National Anthem and has set six broad goals that point to the path that we must take if we are to succeed in our efforts to transform our nation and realise our development vision for 2005-2025: “A fully developed society that is prosperous, socially just and globally competitive”. We are therefore asking Barbadians abroad to join us in our efforts to Unleash the Spirit of the Nation; create New Governance for New Times; Build Social Capital; Strengthen the Physical Infrastructure and Preserve the Environment; Enhance Barbados’ Prosperity and Competitiveness and Brand Barbados Globally. There is much that you can do in your areas of influence and we are depending on those efforts to help us work with our global partners to achieve our vision for the future.

The Lord has been truly good to us as a people and as a Nation. May we continue in the path of excellence that our forefathers prepared for us and may God continue to bless this beautiful land of Barbados.

I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Independence!


Rt. Hon Owen S. Arthur

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