The World Today for January 19, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

Standing Tall

BARBADOS

When the BBC asked Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley about climate change last year, the interviewer learned a lesson about international perspective. As the Scotland-based National newspaper explained, the BBC correspondent wondered why Barbados was receiving so much Chinese foreign investment when the country was in the Caribbean – traditionally the US’s sphere of influence.

“For you to focus on the Caribbean or Africa with China, without recognizing the role that China is playing in Europe or the north Atlantic countries, is a bit disingenuous,” said Mottley. “(It) really reflects more that we’re seen as pawns, regrettably, rather than countries with equal capacity to determine our destiny and to be part of that global conversation to fight the global issues of the day such as climate and the pandemic.” She added that the US accepts billions in Chinese investments annually when it sells Treasury bonds on the open market to fund its perennial budget deficits.

That vigorous sense of independence and deep historical awareness likely underpinned Barbados’ decision late last year to say goodbye to British Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state to become a republic, as NBC News reported. Those qualities also appear to be serving the country well as it moves forward in 2022 and prepares for its first parliamentary elections as a republic today, as Reuters noted.

After multinational tourism companies withheld payments during the coronavirus pandemic –hoarding cash – local entrepreneurs launched their own travel booking service, BookBarbados.com, for example. It was an unapologetic attempt to ensure more money from their country’s biggest industry goes into local hands, according to Skift.

Tourism funding could finance other efforts, too. Avinash Persaud, who advises Mottley on investment and financial services, has suggested a universal basic income to help citizens endure the tough times resulting from Covid-19 and save the economy from a cycle of poverty, Business Insider reported.

The country is also opening a virtual embassy in Decentraland, an online world where a plot of virtual property recently sold for more than $2.4 million, wrote Bloomberg. Barbadian officials said the online embassy would save money. The country didn’t have the capacity to open diplomatic missions in the 197 countries around the globe.

Such measures should inspire other countries to throw off the legacy of colonialism – a symbolic colonialism, to be sure, but one nonetheless, argued Al Jazeera columnist Andrew Mitrovica, noting that Australia and Canada are among the largest ex-colonies where the British monarch still theoretically holds sway.

Let nations decide for themselves. That is the point.

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