Former British colony Barbados has celebrated its 46th year of independence.
Speaking yesterday, Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said the decision to end the colonial relationship with Great Britain had been “fully justified”.
Mr Stuart said at the social, political and economic levels, Barbados has made tremendous strides and added:
“At the social level, we can boast of having a Barbados that is more balanced and inclusive today than at any other time in our history; our children now have access to education from the nursery to the tertiary levels; enlightened legislative reforms have `massively expanded the rights of our women.
“We continue to provide for the care and protection of our aged; the disabled continue to benefit from mechanisms put in place to integrate them into the mainstream of our society; our social safety net continues to provide effective cover for the more vulnerable groups in the society; and we continue to provide for a secure future by making a strategic investment in our youth.”
Mr Stuart said independence had allowed Barbados to create an economic environment that helped locals and non-Barbadians who want to invest and expanded opportunities to encourage the development of micro and small businesses.
“On the whole, we have been fostering the development of an entrepreneurial culture in Barbados,” he said, noting that politically, “we have deepened those processes and strengthened those institutions that both encourage popular participation and guarantee the freedom of the individual.
“Is it any wonder then that Barbados has been described as a country with one of the highest levels of human development in the developing world? Is it any wonder that Barbados is a leader in the world among small island developing states? Is it any wonder that our success continues to baffle countries much larger and better resourced, materially, than ours?” he said.
The Prime Minister pointed to the social relationships built up over years by employers, trade unions and government had allowed Barbados to better withstand the challenges from the global financial crisis.
In his message, Prime Minister Stuart also reminded the country of the responsibilities independence imposed.
“It also imposes serious responsibilities – the responsibility to be productive and efficient in what we do; the responsibility to nurture and to guard jealously those moral and spiritual values which have served us so well throughout our history, especially our post-Independence history”.
“Our aim must be to create a Barbados in which can be found families that are sound, communities that are vibrant, a society that is just, and a nation in which the well known Barbadian resilience continues to reveal itself.
“We are living in very difficult and challenging times. Information and communications technology has brought within the reach of every citizen ease of access to developments social, political and economic taking place far beyond the shores of Barbados.
“Our options, however, are not unlimited. As we embark on our 47th year as a nation, let us not forget that the options we take will influence the choices we make and will determine the future we create,” Prime Minister Stuart added.
CARICOM [Caribbean Community] Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said that Barbados has made impressive progress and achieved an “enviable level of development in the relatively short timeframe of 46 years.
Mr LaRocque said: “Creatively harnessing, rather than allowing themselves to be limited by small size and limited resources, Barbadians have registered economic and social gains that inspire the global community of developing states and certainly those of the Caribbean Community,”