In a message marking Panama Day that coincides with the inauguration of the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914, Prime Minister Stuart said that “we are especially proud of our countrymen who played a major role in the construction of what is considered today, an engineering marvel.
“When the first group of Barbadians left these shores to travel to Panama, they faced an uncertain future. They were unaware of the gruelling conditions that awaited them and the fact that they might not survive,” he said.
In his message, Prime Minister Stuart said as Barbadians celebrate Panama Day this year, “we should reflect on the courage and tenacity of those Barbadians who braved the unknown in Panama so many years ago.
“The same resilience that was required to meet the demands of constructing a superstructure in exacting conditions is now required to confront the challenges that our nation faces today.”
Last week, the Central Bank of Barbados reported that the island had registered an estimated 2.2 per cent growth during the first six months of this year in what it described as “an uneven performance”.
It said preliminary data suggest that the expansion in real economic output continued into the second quarter, primarily reflecting sustained growth in tourism activity and that the fiscal deficit narrowed moderately in the first quarter of fiscal year 2017/18, partially the result of the fiscal consolidation measures implemented in the previous fiscal year.
Last Friday, Prime Minister Stuart defended the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) saying the country was dealing “incrementally” with a ‘serious deficit problem”
Stuart defended the near 400 per cent increase in the NSRL amid calls from the trade unions and the private sector for either a reduction or a complete repeal of the fiscal measure that came into force at the start of July.
During the budget presentation in May, Finance Minister Chris Sinckler said the NSRL, which was introduced in September last year, would be increased from two to 10 per cent effective July 1.
In his Panama Day message, Prime Minister Stuart said that it is significant to note that as the Canal and the city were being built, a new Barbados was also emerging.
“The remittances of the workers played a substantial role in the development of Barbados. Indeed, it is believed that the middle-class Barbadian was created at that time.
“The Government of Barbados is making a concerted effort to connect with Panamanians of Barbadian descent. This undertaking, motivated by a burning desire to embrace family, also presents avenues for economic opportunities. While the President of Panama and I have exchanged official visits in 2015, exchanges at all levels are encouraged. We have already started to welcome Panamanians of Barbadian descent. Many have indicated their desire to return and bring family and friends.”
Stuart said that the Barbados-Panama story offers a positive lesson in the outcomes of migration, adding that the nationals of both the state of origin and the receiving state achieved their objectives.
“The successful completion of the Panama Canal relied on the labour of migrants who were willing to work tirelessly and possessed the fortitude to overcome harsh conditions. It provided an opportunity for many Barbadians confronted by limited job prospects.”
Barbados and Panama established diplomatic relations in August 1975.
- Countries: Barbados