The pursuit of true independence
Over the past week, the Caribbean region has lost two of its foremost statesmen. Similar in age and political era.
Both were part of the political maturation of their respective islands, closely involved in the leadership that took their countries from under the control of Britain to becoming prosperous independent nations.
Both were part of the movements to transform the economies of their individual islands, and the region on a whole, from being primarily agricultural remnants of a plantation era into the more rewarding high-end tourism.
Both played integral roles in bringing the entire Caribbean region together under the umbrella of Cricket West Indies, Caribbean athletics powerhouses via Carifta, The University of the West Indies and Caricom, the Caribbean Common Market.
Antigua & Barbuda have lost a son of the soil, former prime minister Sir Lester Bryant Bird.
Born in 1938, he served as second Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda from 1994 to 2004. His father, Sir Vere Bird Sr was the first prime minister.
During his tenure, Sir Lester put great focus on building Antigua & Barbuda as a prime destination for luxury hotels, a safe haven for yachts of all sizes, a gaming industry, and an international/regional airline hub for the Eastern Caribbean.
In doing so, the fortunes of the native Antiguans and Barbudians were vastly improved.
The tourism industry allowed Antiguans and Barbudians to move out of the sugar fields and into industries such as large and small hotel ownership, car rental ownership, taxi ownership and the banking industry.
In the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, they are now mourning the loss of former deputy prime minister and governor-general Sir Arthur Dion Hanna.
Born in 1928, Sir Arthur Hanna served as a Member of Parliament for the Ann’s Town constituency from 1960 to1992. He also served as Minister of Finance from 1973 to1984.
During this post-independence era, Bahamas was establishing itself as an example of economic empowerment of the native peoples.
Using the natural beauty of their hundreds of islands, the Bahamian people transformed their economy into that of a tourist haven for millions of visitors, luxury hotels and harbours full of mega yachts.
As with Antigua & Barbuda, the economic wellbeing of Bahamians has changed from agricultural workers to owners of almost all spheres of business.
Such was the impact of Sir Arthur on the economic improvement of Bahamians that the present prime minister, Hubert Minnis, has declared that Sir Arthur’s picture would replace the portrait of the Queen on a newly designed $100 note of Bahamas currency.
The vision of both Sir Lester and Sir Arthur’s generations was not just political independence from Britain. No, theirs was a vision of economic co-operation and economic independence for their citizens.
With economic independence comes the ability for self-determination and self-empowerment.
Owning car rental agencies, hotels, petrol stations and restaurants is far better than getting up every day to chop sugar cane in Nassau or picking pineapples in Antigua.
While these islands may be far away from Bermuda geographically, they do serve as examples to us that politics is not the be-all and end-all of the development of a nation.
If their people were able to move up the ladder economically through vision and commitment, there is nothing that should stop Bermudians from having similar goals.
We have to learn to put aside instant gratification such as expensive phones, new cars, boats and trips. Instead, look to take those same funds and learn how to invest in financial markets.
Take that Vegas trip money and put it into retirement funds or towards our children’s education.
More Bermudians must learn the essential technical skills such as auto mechanics, plumbing, electrical and masonry. In doing so, they will be able to start their own businesses.
Families should pool funds and collective credit in order to develop properties that can be rented out for the long term.
In order to experience true progression, we must transition into economic empowerment via property and/or business ownership where our money works for us, versus us working simply to survive.
Essentially, that is what makes you truly independent.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com