Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley is advocating for reparations for the region as well a “Caribbean Marshall Plan” to address the economic decline the region faces as it confronts the deadly combination of the negative impact of the COVID 19 pandemic and the inherent social and economic disparities that continue to stymie the region’s development.
“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,” the Barbados PM was quoted as saying.
According to a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat release yesterday, these remarks were by Mottley as part of her address at a recent virtual media engagement organised by the CARICOM Reparations Commission over which she has oversight as the current Chairperson of CARICOM’s Prime Ministerial Sub-committee on Reparations.
The Prime Minister’s mention of a “Caribbean Marshall Plan” was a reference 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.
The CARICOM Reparations Commission was established in July, 2013 by the region’s Heads of Government, to pursue reparations from the former slaveholding and colonising countries in Europe. Currently twelve Member States of CARICOM are represented on the Commission.
Mottley added that the poverty and underdevelopment that Barbados and other Caribbean countries inherited from the British and other European powers at the time of independence, means that the region is bereft of the stability necessary to easily graduate to the next level of growth while carrying large national debts and simultaneously fighting off the pandemic.
She also 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… universities and commercial enterprises that benefited from slavery must also be held to account for their actions.”
The Prime Minister assured that “No one is asking for anything other than fairness at this stage,” while declaring that, “Economic transformation and growth depends on an international compact for the Caribbean.” She pointed out that COVID-19 has already led, in many instances, to a doubling of expenditure in health and social care support, a quadrupling in other cases as well as taken the tourism sectors that were once earning, to zero revenue, therefore lacking the capacity to employ anyone.
Mottley posited that the international community needs to recognise that what the Caribbean region will go through over the course of the pandemic threatens 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.”
The Prime Minister said she was happy that the rest of the world is beginning to now understand that “reparations is an idea whose time has come,” and that the sensitivity to this issue is being appreciated, in particular, by the younger generation who have 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.
She contended that for CARICOM, reparations are not just simply about money, but 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.”
Mottley asserted that the case for reparations at this point will allow the region to move to the next level with respect to education, healthcare, and access to capital, land, and housing.
The PM declared, “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 recognize 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.”