Saturday, March 28, 2015

An Orwellian state of affairs-Is there any Justice in Paradise?

George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm is a cogent reminder of the need to be ever vigilant as ordinary citizens.  The book which is a political allegory, is based on Russia’s 1917 Revolution.  That revolution overthrew an autocratic system and put in place a set of people who were thought to be more benevolent with ideas for fairness, justice and prosperity. What started out as a promise of a free and just society became a brutal dictatorship and misery for ordinary people.  

In Orwell’s story-Animal Farm- the animals live for years under duress until they find the courage to strategise and overthrow the farmers, their masters. What began as a hopeful experiment ended in disillusionment with the pigs assuming leadership of the farm and enlisting the protection of the dogs. At the end of the novel, as the ordinary animals who do the majority of the work peer into the Great House, they can no longer differentiate between the pigs and the humans. Such became the behaviour and mannerisms of the new leaders that they only served to protect their own selfish interests.  

The most enduring line of Orwell’s novel is the saying, ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal than others’. It highlights the fact that many countries start out with peaceful and democratic ideals, yet inequality festers and the law is in favour of the most powerful. The pigs in Animal Farm demonstrate this point as they continuously changed and manipulated the rules to suit their needs. Such rules were reinforced not by the consent of the people but through brute force in the form of the well-trained dogs.  

Though written in 1945 Animal Farm has an enduring lesson for our societies. The rights of ordinary citizens are frequently trampled while justice is swiftly meted out when they transgress the laws they have no say in. In our Caribbean scenario, St. Lucia is presently facing a scandal of enormous proportions. A recent independent report revealed substantial evidence of extra-judicial killings by members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. No senior officials have been suspended or charged and families of the victims remain in the dark on justice and compensation.

In Jamaica, less than two weeks ago two policemen were involved in the shooting of an unarmed civilian who they claimed was resisting arrest. However thanks to video evidence the two were identified. Jamaica’s Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) issued a press release stating that one officer was charged for murder while the other was charged for perverting the course of justice. Had it not been for the video capture of the situation there would likely be no arrest.

One can only imagine how the family of the deceased must feel having his life taken so callously and unjustly. After years of police brutality and extra-judicial killings, Jamaica has managed to resolve some of these issues by appointing independent bodies to oversee wrong doing by law enforcement officials. A people cannot feel safe knowing that the authority of the state instead of being used to protect them is actually used against them in unjust ways.

Under the Constitution of Barbados the right to life is guaranteed except where a court imposes a death sentence for a criminal offence or in justifiable instances such as the defense of a person from violence, the defence of property or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained.

With the 50th anniversary of independence approaching and talks of completing the independence project by becoming a republic, Barbadians must critically reflect on what really is the rule of law and whether justice actually exist.

The death of Selwyn Knight is clearly an unconstitutional act. What is even more worrying is the glaring delay in justice, the lack of transparency and the obvious double standards in this matter. Were it a civilian who had pulled the trigger on two plain clothes policemen, justice would have been executed swiftly and severely.

However as Orwell reminds us, some are more equal than others. The lesson for ordinary Barbadians is not to become complacent as the animals in Orwell’s allegory did. By the end of the story with the treatment the animals received they became disillusioned and could not distinguish between their current leaders and their former masters. Having independence does not guarantee a free, fair and just society. We must be ever cautious that history does not repeat itself.  

May Mr.Knight and his family find justice !

Sunday, March 22, 2015

In Support of Jason Holder

The rise of current West Indies captain Jason Holder has drawn much attention from the cricketing fraternity. Commentators, sports journalists, coaches and analysts have all had their say on the new man at the helm of the West Indies One Day team.  

Following the fiasco of the abandoned Indian tour Holder was selected to replace Dwayne Bravo who was evidently punished for leading the rebellion against the West Indies Cricket Board. Not only was Bravo axed as the One Day/Limited Overs captain, but he was also overlooked for the current World Cup.

Many questioned the appointment of Holder, a player who did not cement his place in the team if one is to compare him with fellow Barbadian pacer Kemar Roach.  What was even more intriguing was that Holder’s first assignment came against the best team in the world at the time. The South African tour was indeed a baptism of fire for the One Day captain who managed a consolation victory losing the series 4-1.

Shining through defeat and disappointment however is Holder’s resolve in the face of adversity. At only age twenty-three years old Jason Holder is carrying the weight of the Caribbean on his shoulders. He has had to contend with the tragedy of the West Indies Cricket Board whose leadership has been the butt of cricket jokes in international cricket. Holder has also dealt with internal disputes and poor team performances. Furthermore it is never easy to take charge of a unit with a former leader or leaders. The political developments of the Barbadian Opposition over the past five years are testament to this fact. Holder has no fewer than three past captains including Darren Sammy, Chris Gayle and Denish Ramdin.

The problem with the West Indies cricket team is not a shortage of talent. One of Holder’s greatest task is to get his team to recognise the importance of their jobs to maintaining Caribbean pride and unity. We must spare a thought for Holder as he deals with individuals who possess grossly inflated egos, who sporadically use their cerebral capabilities, who are more focused on sporting gold chains, flashing their duty free sports cars and publishing their night club exploits on social media.    

What Holder's captaincy emphasises is the necessity of investing in and developing the leadership potential of our young people. Barbados in particular is philosophically opposed to embracing the leadership of young people whether it be in business, politics or sports. There is always caution to ‘wait your turn’ despite the fact that many young people have proven their worth and demonstrated immense potential. One must therefore commend chairman of selectors Clive Lloyd for having the foresight of appointing Holder as captain. While some critics have been scathing of the move, Lloyd along with those involved in Holder’s development have spoken about the diligent attitude he has developed over the years. An attitude which clearly has not gone unnoticed.

Indeed Holder is talented but he has demonstrated that talent alone does not make one successful. Hard work, a willingness to reflect and learn from one’s mistakes, to listen to sound advice and to think critically are key ingredients in the path to success. During their must win World Cup fixture against the United Arab Emirates team, one of the analyst positively commented on Holder’s impeccable work ethic in the nets. That hard work resulted in a win for the West Indies and Holder copping the man of the match award.

Holder’s ability to filter criticism, to act on what is constructive and to dismiss negativity must be commended. His ability to overcome harsh and potentially embarrassing defeats and yet speak optimistically, truthfully and firmly about his team are indicators of a man who is well on his way to achieving great things.

The age old debate about leaders being born is all but settled. From my perspective I am yet to come across any scientific study identifying a gene so designated as the leadership gene. Leaders emerge in circumstances where the sum of the individual’s experiences, the individuals and institutions which impact him or her and personal commitment to self-development meet opportunities.

Other young people aiming to achieve success would do well to take note of Jason Holder’s approach and commitment. As Barbadians we must give him our full support and encouragement. We need to focus on developing more youth of Holder’s ilk if we are to rectify the paucity of leadership currently impacting local and regional institutions, the WICB being foremost among them.   

Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Open Letter to the Strict Guardians of Male Privilege and craftsMen of Women’s fate

Before the sun could set on the Sixteen Days of Activism Campaign 2014, yet another young Barbadian mother was savagely attacked in a case of Gender Based Violence (GBV).  It serves as a chilling reminder if we ever needed one that domestic violence continues to be a very serious scourge on our society.

At the forefront of the campaign continues to be women’s organisations as the issue disproportionately impacts females. Should it be that only women’s organisations are in the forefront of this effort? Indeed one social commentator reviewing the sixteen days noted that new voices needed to be added to the fight. Another questioned the extent to which the Barbadian public had become desensitised, in the same way that we are no longer shocked by the killing of unarmed black men by police in the USA. The danger of being desensitised is something we must fervently guard against. Failure to do so means that we become unmoved by the plight of the victims and provide a level of legitimacy to would be perpetrators to undertake their heinous acts.

What is to be done is always the question confronting any organisation or social movement attempting to bring about change. Seeking to modify behaviour, raise consciousness and change entrenched mindsets is never an easy task. For this reason the struggle waged by the women’s movement must be lauded since the positive gains are not only beneficial to women but to children and also to men.

As much as these voices continue to be in the forefront of the fight against Gender Based Violence, it is imperative that new voices be added to the struggle. Not as a means of drowning out those in the vanguard of protecting women’s rights but instead to magnify the call for an end to domestic violence and gender inequality in all of its manifestations.

Gender Based Violence is not solely a women’s issue it has to be a male issue too since our sons are negatively impacted and as the statistics irrefutably show men are the main perpetrators. It is for this reason that the silence by leading male organisations in our country needs to be broken. Indeed they do speak but seldom is it in condemning the heinous acts such as occurred on the morning of December 10, 2014. More often the speeches seem calculated to provide excuses or to detract from the real issues.  

For example on the heels of legislation to guard against sexual harassment, we hear a strong call from a leading men’s group that women who falsely accuse men of harassment should receive hefty fines. The real issue here is that harassment in the workplace and elsewhere is persistent, pervasive and petrifying for many women. It is the lived reality of thousands of Barbadian females and far surpasses any consideration of false claims. If an organisation is truly serious about empowering men then it needs to stand behind our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, nieces, daughters and friends to raise the conscious of all men in ending the acts which cause our women significant pain and discomfort.

It baffles me that in the 21st century some male headed organisations still hold on to archaic notions of females being less than equal. That these organisations openly resent the gains women have made and seemingly wish to turn back the hands of time is tragic if not laughable. Such was the case in a recent panel discussion on GBV which I was honoured to be part of.

Sentiments such as women are taking over, women are forcing men out and women were being disobedient and not taking their rightful are the philosophical underpinnings of key figures in one male organisation. In my response to these neanderthal beliefs I stated that the influential figures in my life (mainly women) taught me to stand up on the side of fairness and justice no matter the class, colour, belief system or sex of those being oppressed. For that response I was chastised for ‘siding with women’ to which I showed no remorse.    

One of the major flaws of our Independence project was that while it sought to fix several issues and to improve the standard of living, it did not pay enough attention to gender inequality. This could be seen by the limited subject choices for girls in the early school system, the glaring absence of females in our parliament and even in the selection of a lone heroine in the pantheon of national heroes despite Barbados’ claim to being a matrifocal society.  

Just as white privilege in the USA has resulted in the death of innocent black males; male privilege in Barbados in all sectors including the pulpit, parliament and press has been complicit in the deaths of women by gender based violence. The complicity has come through our failure to condemn domestic violence, our sluggish approach to legal and institutional reforms, unwillingness to raise our consciousness and to understand the plight of Barbadian women and our failure to teach our sons to respect, appreciate and value the lives of our daughters.     

We inherited a system of inequality which attempted to break the body, soul and mind of black women and men for profit. It is time that we disabuse ourselves of that old colonial, patriarchal system which has provided our men with a sense of false entitlement and false superiority. It is time that we throw away the signet of oppression, inequality and violence shamelessly worn by our former colonisers, take responsibility for our actions and emphatically denounce all forms of violence and inequality against this country’s women. GBV is not characteristic of a modern, progressive or enlightened society and will only destroy our social fabric if our males refuse to join the fight. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

When freedom of Expression is taken offline

Issues of freedom of speech online are not solely "rights issues" or "Internet issues"; they are located somewhere in the middle and will need to be addressed by all stakeholders.”
The Internet Society, 2014

The internet has brought with it a plethora of new possibilities. From online shopping to crowd funding for projects, it has been transformational to the lives of ordinary people around the world.
In the last five years or so the ability to interact with friends and even strangers has become a major feature of this technological innovation. With the advent of Web 2.0 tools more commonly known as social media, people from every corner of the earth have been able to connect with each other sharing ideas and information. In so doing they are able to go beyond the limitations of traditional media. 
Previously radio call-in programmes provided the most significant avenue for ordinary people to express their opinions of social, political and economic issues. However there are limitations as a radio station can easily face a law suit for potentially defamatory remarks made by callers.

The internet has not totally displaced the radio call-in programmes or even the newspaper. However it provides citizens with greater freedom to express themselves in comparison to traditional media. In so doing it has become an important tool for raising awareness and amplifying the voice of the common man. However this free speech has become an increasingly contentious issue.

In recent times many debates have been raised at all levels over issues of privacy, security and free speech on the internet. Freedom of speech particularly in the face of repressive political regimes has emerged as one of the most significant issues.  A 2011 report by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) highlighted social media platforms as being invaluable in countries which lack independent media. These platforms provide individuals with a significant opportunity to share critical views, to network and research important information to advance their cause.

The UNHRC further goes on to cite article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These documents outline the right of individuals to hold opinions without political interference and to freedom of expression. However the UNHRC states that these rights come with certain conditions. It cautions that freedom of speech should be exercised with respect for the reputation of others and should not pose a threat to national security or public order.

Herein lies a very ambiguous issue. Any citizen can claim his right to freedom of speech. On the other hand a state can arbitrarily create or interpret legislation which claims that a citizen has compromised public order, national security or the reputation of others. In the majority of cases ‘others’ really mean the privileged few who hold public office and who have the power and financial backing to zealously protect their reputation.

The Arab Spring was a clear example of ordinary people using the internet to circumvent state owned and private media. In so doing they mobilised grassroots support and protested against oppressive conditions in their countries. Of course several individuals were routinely targeted for expressing their views and attempts were even made to disrupt the internet in some countries. The Caribbean has come a long way from such extremes with respect to our system of governance, however the voice of the citizen is still limited with most electronic media entities being state controlled.

Recently in Trinidad, well known comedian Rachel Price used her Facebook page to criticise the attire of the head of state’s wife. President Carmona’s wife was attending a side event at the United Nations in which she wore a midriff outfit. Price staying true to character, made light of the first lady’s fashion sense. This drew the ire of President Carmona who responded by issuing a cease and desist order preventing Price from making any future public remarks concerning his wife.

As expected the President’s reaction created a stir in the twin island republic which is never devoid of political intrigue. It also led to the question of whether the state official had abused his power in curtailing free speech. This was taken to heart by many Caribbean people as for years ordinary citizens have been verbally abused by the political class on platforms and using the veil of parliamentary privilege.  

The internet and the advent of Web 2.0 tools has now placed some of the power back in the citizens’ hands. However with states’ ability to make and interpret laws, the increased resources to conduct mass surveillance, monitoring and identifying activists and criminalising legitimate expression it is difficult to see how freedom of expression online will be maintained.

Citizens must be cognisant of their responsibility not to engage in character assassination and other malicious conduct online.  Where they fall short of this appropriate legal action should be taken. However a government which truly respects the right of its people to free speech will work hard to find a balance and involve its people in policy formulation of this nature.

Outdated ambiguous legislation will not cut it in the 21st century. A caring and fair government will also set the example by establishing and enforcing a code of conduct which protects citizens from the arbitrary and menacing verbal abuse by some of its members. Failure to do such creates a double standard which privileges the unfettered speech of the powerful and punishes those who dare to speak out.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Are the lives of young black men less valuable? (Part 1)

Outstanding African writer Chimamanda Adichie presents a sobering critique of race relations in America through her latest novel Americanah. Adichie’s protagonist in the novel, Ifemelu is a Nigerian born young woman who migrates to further her education and chase the American dream. For the first time in her life, Ifemelu is shocked to learn that the colour of her skin matters.

Unlike Nigeria where she is accustomed to blacks in positions of power, the stark reality of American life leads Ifemelu to do some real soul searching. The simple things she takes for granted back home such as employment opportunities, getting decent service at a restaurant or walking the street without the possibility of unlawful arrest are now threatened in America by her skin colour. 

While I was engrossed in the final chapter of Adichie’s award winning novel, another African American teen was fatally shot by a police officer in the USA. Eyewitness reports suggest that the young man, Mike Brown, was unarmed during the confrontation with law enforcement officials, but this did not prevent him from receiving six shots about his body.

The plight of the young black male in American society, like an endangered species facing extinction, was again thrown into the spotlight. The issue of racism so carefully sidestepped by leading American public figures particularly those of African origin, rose from its slumber to grip the country and to mock premature proclamations of a post-racial society. Mike Browns’ death follows on the heels of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and the countless stories of the unlawful incarceration of young black men which hardly make mainstream media.

Days of protests followed the death of Brown with African Americans berating that tenets of freedom, justice, equality and democracy only applied to one race in that country. As if to prove the protesters correct as to the locus of power in the country, police units with equipment reported to be more advanced than US led ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, squared off against Ferguson residents to control and combat their calls for justice.  

One online blogger and experienced protester stated that the unfolding events in Missouri reminded him of his days in the Black Panther movement, where its fight for racial equality was systematically undermined by American law enforcement entities. Ironically while protesters battled tear gas and rubber bullets, the Klu Klux Klan an organisation which has historically terrorised and murdered several black Americans, publicly offered its protection to non-black businesses in Fergusson. It also threw its financial support behind the officer who shot the unarmed teen. 

The question to be asked in the wake of this latest shooting centres on the value of young black males across America and indeed the world. Are the lives of young black men less valuable than other races and if so why?  Racism (and classism) as Adichie notes in Americanah are about maintaining power and control. Often times it is an elite few who create the laws, control the wealth and dictate the state of affairs. Ferguson’s population of around 21,000 is estimated to be two-thirds black but its political leadership, education system, public administration and law enforcement are predominantly non-black.

In a true democracy equal representation and participation would have been encouraged. Where there is a threat to the system of unequal power that threat is kept in check by whatever means necessary. In the earlier years of the civil rights and Pan-African movements articulate young black men (and women) such as Malcolm X, Stokley Carmichael, Marcus Garvey, Huey Newton and Martin Luther King were targeted as they threatened to dismantle the system. These men have given way to younger generations facing less overt struggles of racism but still situations of disenfranchisement, poverty and police brutality. However it is now easier to eliminate such threats.

Through the images popularised by negative elements in rap and hip hop music which have glorified young black men as gun toting thugs and gangsters, it is now easy for the system to justify the elimination of those who are potential threats to laws and practices fuelled by racial inequality. The implications of the gangster image in a system prone to police excesses is a reality which young American black men must grapple with. In addition they must also raise their consciousness and determine how to successfully challenge the unequal status quo in a non-violent means. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

When Silence is not Golden

When I first started contributing to this space, I was aware of the fact that I was opening myself to public scrutiny. It wasn’t the first time I was sharing my personal thoughts in a public forum but it would be the first time doing so on a consistent basis. Given my background in youth work, I naturally gravitated towards commentary on societal issues particularly impacting young people. 

I was well aware that Barbadian society though considered democratic does not always encourage diversity of opinion especially when people feel they are the object of your concerns. For instance I have been accused of being an operative for the opposition party when raising awareness of youth unemployment and then labelled by opposition supporters as being partisan when endorsing government measures to address the same issue. 

The lesson I learnt was that it was impossible to please everyone but to always canvass the ideas of the young people who I represented and express their fears and concerns with as much conviction as they did to me.   

Being outspoken did not happen overnight. It came from taking small bold steps and through the advice and encouragement from other outspoken people. Even now I do not consider myself sufficiently outspoken much of it stems from the fear of victimisation which has been passed down from generation to generation in Barbadian society. 

Evidence of this was highlighted in another section of the media recently by way of an interview with a University of the West Indies Student. The interview took place after a planned protest against a range of tax measures and cuts taken by government. When asked why she was present when many of her peers were not, the student noted that her parents had always encouraged her to be outspoken. On the other hand several of her colleagues were warned by their parents of jeopardising their career prospects if they were associated with the march.

It reminded me of my UWI days when I was one of the very few Barbadian students protesting the planned hike in amenities fees among the scores of non-national students who helped to bring some sanity to the debate.

But it is not only in Barbados where being outspoken gets the disapproving eye. The current Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be invoking condemnation from countries all across the world. Improper actions have been committed on both sides but disproportionate use of force from Israeli raids resulting in the deaths of mainly civilian women and children ought to be condemned by the international community. The claim has been that militants have been using civilians as human shields but among these deaths included four children who were playing football on a beach.

In response to the ongoing tragedy NBA star Dwight Howard who has a following of 15 million on Twitter posted #FreePalestine. He was immediately blasted for ‘choosing sides’ in the conflict and deleted his tweet with an apology.  Barbadian Pop Sensation Rihanna did likewise but later deleted her tweet and offered a lengthy apology. The support from both of these international icons to the plight of thousands of women and children could have gone a long way in forcing people across the world to take note and place pressure on their respective governments to speak up about these atrocities. Sadly however commercial and political interests have won out over human rights issues.

The events in Palestine are but one of the many situations across the world which requires the voice of the international community. History is replete with tragic lessons of the evil that flourishes when we sit back and watch those with economic, political and military power muzzle our voices while promoting their agendas. It is always tempting to sit on the fence and allow other persons to do the speaking or to await the outcome of such situations, that is until we find ourselves in similar predicaments and then wish for others to rescue us as we struggle to find our voice.

Over the past two weeks I have been fortunate to engage three colleagues who have done humanitarian work in the Middle East and in Palestine. From the information they shared and from critically assessing the various media reports I have come to the conclusion that silence is not the best option from my end. I asked my colleagues what I could do to bring awareness about this issue to my small sphere of influence. Their simple message was that if each person raised their voice in unison in whatever way they could, it would force world leaders to stop turning a blind eye. It would also give hope to the children of Palestine that they have a future beyond fleeing bombs and being treated as less than humans. 

Whatever our ethnic, religious, national or political origins and persuasions we are all human beings and the unfair treatment of any one group of people will eventually cause great discomfort for several other groups. Our silence is not always golden.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Respect is due to our Caribbean People

We Caribbean people are known to be hospitable, warm and friendly. When we welcome guests into our homes we tend to roll out the red carpet ensuring they are served with the best food using the best cutlery and that we are on our best behaviour. Little do they know of the struggles and sacrifices we undergo to accommodate them and to make our house a home.

All that we ask in return is for our guests to appreciate our efforts and not to speak ill of our place of abode. If they do we become irritated by their behaviour and it is worse when such a person comes from a position of privilege.

It is the idea of the privileged, critical and unappreciative guest which comes to mind with the recent two day visit to Jamaica by Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde. Speaking at the invitation of the UWI, Mona Campus Ms. Lagarde delivered a speech entitled, ‘The Caribbean and the IMF—Building a Partnership for the Future.’ The speech centred on the notion of change for both the Caribbean and the change the IMF has made in its dealings with member countries. The speech also waxed poetic with quotes from outstanding Caribbean writers and musicians.

Between the flowery quotes and acknowledgement of the Caribbean’s vulnerabilities, Ms. Lagarde also made some unwelcomed remarks. She insisted that the Caribbean needed to rid itself of its lethargy and trade this for ‘lift off’. She also scolded the region for ‘having a tendency to get stuck in the doldrums of stagnation—low growth, high debt, low competitiveness and high unemployment’.

Ms Lagarde insists that the poor and vulnerable are the worst hit by economic crises, that youth unemployment has impacted a third of Jamaica’s youth population and that the poverty rate has doubled to 17.5 per cent. That stagnation, debt, economic inequality, disenchantment, crime, insecurity and a dwindling quality of life have all been features of Caribbean economies and societies.

Strangely enough Ms Lagarde’s description aptly fits several countries where IMF structural adjust programmes have been undertaken. Perhaps Ms. Lagarde would have been better off doing a comparative analysis of IMF structural adjustment programmes implemented twenty years ago and the state of third world economies now.

No thought seems to have been given to the special circumstances and historical forces of dependence and exploitation which impacted Caribbean countries. Surely as a French citizen Ms Lagarde must be aware of the sterling legacy of French colonialism in Africa and the Caribbean. The struggles of the formerly enslaved peoples of Haiti who fought against their French masters comes to mind. Even worse, they were forced to pay France reparations so as to be recognised in the international system of states. The millions of francs paid out crippled the Haitian economy and took away from significant investments in health, education and infrastructure leaving Haiti with a legacy of debt and impoverishment.

Such historical facts are of no concern for the IMF official who referred to the Caribbean as traditionally a lethargic place. Lethargy can be substituted for words such as lazy and inefficient.  A word which could also be attributed to the IMF’s handling of several financial crises including that of Greece which resulted in massive nationwide protest against the IMF.

Ms Largade suggested that it was time for the Caribbean to move from lethargy to lift off. Such sentiments are similar to liberal economist Walt Rostow’s theory of modernisation. Modernisation theory suggests that countries develop in five linear stages and that the lack of development in third world countries is due to internal issues such as poverty and backward values. Like Lagarde, Rostow ignores the special circumstances of countries like those in the Caribbean which were for centuries exploited for profit. These countries are now struggling with great debts because a significant portion of their earnings have had to be spent remedying social problems of unemployment, illiteracy, inadequate housing and health care.

Despite her claim of lethargy Ms Lagarde acknowledges that the Caribbean has shifted from an agricultural based economy to a tourism economy, a ‘leap that has eluded many others.’ Such a leap or skipping stages in Rostow’s modernisation model would not be possible by a lazy and lethargic people. Indeed it has taken many developed countries centuries to accomplish what several Caribbean countries have done in under fifty years of independence. 

Unfortunately Ms Lagarde does not recognise the contradictions in her own speech but at least she comes to the realisation that ‘the Fund has not exactly won many popularity contests in this region.’ She further states that ‘for too long, the IMF was viewed in harsh terms, hindering rather than helping, much of this criticism is, I believe unfair.’

Ms Lagarde would be better advised to ponder on her own words. I respectfully disagree with her and in fact  believe the criticism to be justified. However Caribbean governments would be better off solving their problems and seeking support from international institutions which understand their unique circumstances.

In the words of Frantz Fanon from A dying Colonialism ‘liberation (economic) does not come as a gift from anybody, it is seized by the masses with their own hands and by seizing it they are transformed; confidence in their own strength soars and they turn their energy and experience towards building, governing and deciding their own lives.’ 
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