Barbados Prime Minister, the Hon. Mia Mottley, is calling for a Caribbean Marshall Plan and for reparations to address “the economic decline” that the Region will face as it confronts the negative impact of the pandemic and the inherent social and economic inequalities that continue to hinder its development.
The Prime Minister was referring to the US-funded economic recovery plan for the Western European nations that were devastated in the second World War. The initiative was named after George Marshall, who was the US Secretary of State at the time.
“I do believe we must make the argument that a combination of the validity of the reparations argument, the evidence that clearly shows there was no bank account left with us at the point of independence, there was no development compact and, yet, there is a legitimate expectation by our people that independent governments would right the wrongs of the past and would do so quickly by giving people opportunity in this part of the world,” she said.
Mottley made her position known while addressing a recent virtual media engagement organised by the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) over which she has oversight as the current Chairperson of CARICOM’s Prime Ministerial Sub-committee on Reparations.
The CARICOM Reparations Commission was established in July 2013 by the Region’s Heads of Government, to pursue reparations from the former slave-holding and colonising countries in Europe. Twelve Member States of CARICOM are today represented on the Commission.
Mottley said the poverty and underdevelopment that Barbados and other Caribbean countries inherited from the British and other European powers at the time of independence, meant that the Region did not have the stability to easily move to the next level of growth while carrying large national debts and fighting the pandemic at the same time.
The Prime Minister argued that “it cannot be right” to accept that persons and states should, with no remorse, keep the proceeds of illicit gains from a crime against humanity without seeking to create a “development compact” for the people of this Region. She added that universities and commercial enterprises that benefited from slavery must also be held to account for their actions.
“No one is asking for anything other than fairness at this stage,” she said. “Economic transformation and growth depend on an international compact for the Caribbean. COVID-19 has already led, in many instances, to a doubling of expenditure in health and social care support, a quadrupling in other cases, because all of a sudden you go from tourism sectors that are earning to tourism sectors with zero revenue and therefore lack the capacity to employ anyone”.
She said the international community needed to recognise that what the Caribbean Region would go through over the course of the pandemic threatened to undermine the medium-term viability of states in the Region.
“The combination of the appropriateness of the reparations argument, as well as the reality of the economic implosion that has taken place as a result of the global pandemic, requires urgent conversations to begin to understand that a world that was rooted in immorality or a world that was rooted in people profiting from crimes against humanity runs counter to the very things at the democratic level that we have asked both small states and large states to be able to reflect,” she declared.
Mottley added that she was happy the rest of the world was beginning to understand now that “reparations is an idea whose time has come” and that the sensitivity to this issue was being appreciated, in particular, by the younger generation who had, over the course of the last few months, seen it come together with the public lynching of George Floyd and the subsequent massive protests in the United States and around the world against racism and racial violence.
“For us, reparations is not just simply about money,” she argued, “but it is also about justice. I do not know how we can go further unless there is a reckoning first and foremost that places an apology and an acknowledgement that a wrong was done. And that successive centuries saw the extraction of wealth and the destruction of people that must never happen to any society, to any race in any part of this world again. And for that to happen you have to first acknowledge your wrong.”
She stated that the case for reparations for the Region, at this point, would allow it to move to the next level, with respect to education, healthcare, and access to capital, land and housing.
The prime minister concluded her remarks by saying: “I’ve come here this morning to support, on behalf of our Region, the legitimate cause that must continue to be the mission of those within both the public and private sector who recognise that we cannot get out of a forty-foot hole on our own, no matter how many decades have passed since the raising of the flag for independence; we need the assistance of the global community to right the injustices of the past, and to give us the appropriate platform, not just money, but space to ensure that we too can deliver for our people.”