Last weekend the DLP successfully concluded the 59th Annual conference. Following is an extract from the speech delivered by party President and Prime Minister The Rt. Hon. Freundel Stuart, Q.C., M.P.:
The truth is that the time has come for us to confront certain not always pleasant realities in Barbados. A little history can help us here.
The Democratic Labour Party was formed just ten (10) years after the issuing of the Moyne Commission Report into the disturbances of the 1930’s. That Report was made public in July, 1945, sixty-nine (69) years ago.
The most cursory or casual reading of that Report will disclose that whether you were talking about health or education or housing or public transport, or facilities for the aged, or nutrition for children or adults, or access to water, or protection for workers, or a proper network of roads, or availability of work, or a respectable level of wages or any other social amenity, very little had changed in Barbados between 1838 when slavery ended and 1937-1938 when the disturbances happened, that is over a hundred year period.
It took the efforts of newly formed political parties and trade unions to reverse and correct many of those social and economic short comings. The formation of the DLP 59 years ago has to be seen in that context. The response of the DLP in particular to the depressing story contained in the Moyne Commission Report was: The provision of free secondary education; school meals for children at primary schools; equalisation of pay for men and women at the workplace; a national insurance scheme; modern and revolutionary succession legislation to protect the rights of single women in their relationships; severance pay for workers; easy access to university education; modern housing; easier access to water and waterborne facilities; a guaranteed work week in the agricultural sector; modernisation of the economy and the development of the tourism sector; construction of a number of secondary schools to increase the number of places available to our young people; the establishment of a community college; a hotel school and a polytechnic to broaden opportunity for our young and not so young; amongst many other initiatives.
These initiatives were undertaken generally at a time when men and women were casual labourers since they worked by chance. During the sugar cane crop season, they worked with the plantation or the sugar factory. Out of crop, they either worked farms at the plantation for very modest wages, worked occasionally as artisans or maids or did not work at all.
It is for people in this precarious situation and for their children that the state in Barbados assumed full responsibility in those times.
In the concluding sentences of his 1971 Budget Speech, Prime Minister Errol Barrow said, in part, as follows:
The decade of reconstruction has been successfully negotiated. It has not been easy. The society which we have inherited bears within it many social and economic contradictions which material advantages such as we have secured cannot alone eradicate. Those of us in public life ought to concentrate on the upliftment of our people who still have such a long way to travel rather than devoting our efforts to the personal destruction of those whom we envy. Some of us will have to mark time to allow those who have been kept back to catch up with us.”
The question that confronts the DLP in its 59th year of existence and Barbados in its 48th year of independence is this. In 2014, does the state in Barbados owe the same duty to the graduates of secondary and tertiary institutions, living in modern housing with water borne facilities, driving one or other of the 113,000 motor cars on our roads, and in generally steady white collar or blue collar employment as it owed to the man or woman wending his or her way to the cane fields or the farm with broad-rimmed hat, crocus-bag tied around the waist and a hoe or fork across the shoulder having just left a modest chattel house without running water and often on rented land?
If the duty of the state is viewed as the same in relation to both categories, the next question is – can the State afford it?
Those two questions could have been framed differently, that is can the State in the year 2014 and beyond, pursue its social democratic agenda in the same way in which it pursued it in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s, ‘80’s, ‘90’s and in the first decade of the 21st century?
Having empowered the majority of our men and women through education and expanded opportunity, are we still under a duty to treat them as though they were not empowered?