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FRONT PORCH – The insurgency of Mia Mottley: 21st century philosophy and vision for national development

MIA Mottley speaking at the Kofi Annan lecture series.

MIA Mottley speaking at the Kofi Annan lecture series.

MUCH of The Bahamas is stuck in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. During their three terms in office, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and the FNM did much to reform and modernise a backward-leaning and mostly paralysed state creaking with crumbling infrastructure and moribund mindsets.

We are adrift again. A central reason for this is a deficit of vision by the country’s elites, including the political directorates of both major parties, who have no to little governing philosophy or compelling agenda for a 21st century Bahamas.

Dysfunction and entropy are like a marauding army of rust and mold which rapidly and easily conquer due to a lack of maintenance or refurbishment.

After bemoaning to a friend that yet another utility was off, he breezily and mischievously responded: “You can’t expect to have all of your utilities on in The Bahamas at the same time.” As of last week, a friend’s landline has been off five times this year and counting.

We are not alone in this state of disrepair. Still, a number of other small developing nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean are pressing ahead with agendas for development and modernisation, while at home, we seem confused and uninspired as to how to address our national rot and declining standards.

Economic growth has been a major challenge for successive governments. A recent report by Standard and Poor’s (S&P) advised: “Despite good growth over the next two to three years, our assessment of the sovereign’s creditworthiness reflects its below-average, long-term growth performance compared with that of others at a similar level of development.”

SPEAKER

This past September, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley was the inaugural speaker for the Kofi Annan Lecture series. Mottley is in her second term as head of government, having initially become prime minister of her country which was saddled with severe economic, infrastructural and social problems.

She also serves as “Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, with responsibility also for Culture, Security, Public Service, CARICOM and the Development Commissions”.

That she was chosen as the first speaker in the lecture series is testament to her gravitas on the world stage and the recognition by others of what she has to offer to the international dialogue on some of the most vexing and complex global challenges.

The event was co-hosted by the eponymous foundation named for the late former Secretary General of the United Nation, the International Peace Institute, the Open Society Foundations and the International Crisis Group.

While Mottley clearly enjoys the limelight and the global recognition, she is a workhorse, not a show horse, known for her discipline and work ethic at home and abroad.

An avid reader and intellectual, she revels in policy detail and ideas. She may enjoy good public relations, but she knows the difference between PR and substance.

Mottley was introduced at the lecture as an insurgent, an apt description for a leader who is running a domestic insurgency against a certain stasis and low economic growth in Barbados.

INSURGENCY

She is also a leader of a global insurgency or “active revolt” against the status quo that includes an international financial infrastructure benefitting the world powers, while unjustly stymieing progress and economic justice in developing states.

During her lecture, Mottley spoke honestly and cogently of the imperialistic post-World War II order that still retards development for countries like Barbados.

She spoke diplomatically, historically and with force about how the rules of the economic world order, including blacklisting by the European Union and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, are rigged to perpetuate the self-interests of former colonisers.

Her adept style and charisma includes aplomb and wit, deployed to great effect, including this teasing but incisive bon mot at the lecture: “Where have they found the money from the Russian oligarchs? It hasn’t been on the sunny shores of the Caribbean!”

Ms Mottley is confident and at ease on the world stage, capable of conversing with the leaders of the G-7, with fellow small state leaders, academics, the heads of international organisations and various policy experts. And back home she easily reverts to colloquialisms when speaking with fellow Bajans.

As with any masterful insurgent, Ms Mottley understands the international terrain and has tremendous foreign policy chops. She has surveyed the challenges, which she explained in her lecture.

“Today, the world is facing an unprecedented trifecta of connected crises: a cost of living crisis stemming partly from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic; a developing country debt crisis following the pandemic and climate-related disasters; and, the climate crisis as the glaciers melt and storms and droughts intensify.

“The situation is compounded by tightening monetary policies in developed countries and a strengthening US dollar. One in five countries is experiencing fiscal and financial stress.

“Unaddressed, there will be deepening hardship, debt defaults, widening inequality, political upheaval and a delayed shift to low-carbon.”

Prime Minister Mottley understands the effects of colonisation on economic development and a national psyche. She grasps that climate justice, greater economic fairness in the global financial system and moving toward republican status are inextricably linked.

CONFUSED

While our political elites remain confused, reticent or opposed to The Bahamas becoming a republic, Ms Mottley understands the cultural and psychic power of republican status in the pursuit of fuller self-governance, independence and ongoing democratic reform.

Writing in The Atlantic under the headline of “The World’s Newest Republic”, Hannah Giorgis explains: “Technically, Barbados reclaimed full sovereignty nearly one year ago. But in reality, true independence is a process of becoming.”

In our current process of democratic becoming, reform and advancement, The Bahamas remains stuck, paralysed and deeply lethargic! And we continue to fail to advance gender equality and legislation on marital rape.

Prime Minister Mottley intellectually, philosophically and pragmatically understands the challenges facing Barbados and other Caribbean states like ours.

But, as Forbes magazine explains: “What makes listening to leaders like Mottley so refreshing, though, is that as well as highlighting significant challenges, she also advocates for practical measures.”

As an insurgent, Ms Mottley isn’t just dissecting the problems. She has concrete ideas for reform, more of which in a subsequent column. She is currently working with French President Emmanuel Macron on ideas for reforming the global financial infrastructure.

CHAMPION

Ms Mottley is co-chair of the UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Development Goals Advocates Group. She was presented this year by the UN Foundation with the 2022 Champion for Global Change Award “in recognition of her exemplary leadership in fighting for a just, equitable, and sustainable world”.

She was described as receiving the award for “advancing a bold economic and financial agenda that not only would assist her country, but arguably all communities around the world vulnerable to climate change”.

Ms Mottley is the foremost regional leader and a global leader on climate justice. The public interest website ProPublica recently reported: “Barbados, the Caribbean nation whose prime minister, Mia Mottley, has championed the argument that small and developing countries desperately need debt relief and funding if they are to survive climate change, has reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that will make it among the first recipients of money from a new $45 billion resilience trust.

“Under the programme, Barbados is set to receive $183m for climate-focused spending. It’s money that Avinash Persaud, Mottley’s top economic adviser, tells ProPublica will be used to replace segments of the island’s drinking water system and to shore up its supply of fresh water in the face of climate-driven drought.

“Barbados’ current water infrastructure was built by the British more than a century ago and loses about half of the water it carries.”

In her vision for a 21st century small island developing nation, Mia Mottley thinks globally and acts locally to promote democratic reform, sustainable development, equity and social justice.

Comments

BONEFISH 2 weeks, 1 day ago

To the columnist, before PM Mia Mottley ,there was PM Michael Manley of Jamaica. The Jamaica Gleaner said that in an editorial.He had the same charisma,intellectual capability and vison as Mia.Mia is not as polarizing as Michael Manley was in his day. Michael Manley spoke about these issues in the seventies and eighties. The Gleaner recommends that she move on after her political career to contest the position for the post of UN secretary general. She is not the spokesperson for most of the spanish and french speaking caribbean.They have been separate from the english speaking caribbean from the days of colonialism.

The Bahamas is indeed adrift. I sense that living in this country at this time. A lot of persons who go aboard for their tertiary education don't return to live and work in this country. A lady told me this recently. Her daughter said to her leaving for university. she is never coming back to this country to live ,only to visit.

Hubert Ingraham to his credit had a vision for this country.Some of his plans and ideas were thwarted by both PLPs and as well FNMs. He said recently, certain persons in the FNM council meetings were concerned about what they did not get. Mainly their interest was getting contracts He did his best to modernize the Bahamas. Limited local government in the family islands,introduction of private broadcasting,attempting to improve the legal status of women and children born out of wedlock are some of his policy ideas.

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tribanon 1 week, 6 days ago

THIS COLUMNIST'S ARTICLE HAS BEEN CENSURED BY READERS FOR VIOLATION OF FREEDOM OF THE PRESS RIGHTS.

And to think The Tribune is trying to squelch the freedom of speech rights of its readers. LMAO

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