Archbishop of Port of Spain and Apostolic Administrator of Bridgetown Jason Gordon met with leaders and members of the business community at the Living Water Community Centre on Saturday, November 17 to discuss how the Church in Barbados could respond to Pope Francis’ call for Catholics to listen and respond to the poor.
The forum was a first for the diocese and ended a busy week leading up to the Church’s second World Day of the Poor on November 18. The meeting, also attended by members of the diplomatic corps, was held amidst the economic challenges and restructuring in Barbados which has resulted in job losses in the civil service.
Also contributing to the discourse was Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley who outlined some key economic indices and goals in the island’s recovery plan, and updates which signalled early positive movements in the economy.
A media release from the Diocese of Bridgetown, November 21 said that the PM applauded Archbishop Gordon for his leadership—even though he is no longer resident in Barbados—and said that with sacrifice and commitment by all, Barbados would turn the corner.
The release mentioned that at the beginning of the forum, Archbishop Gordon set the scene by sharing information about the reality of poverty, globally and locally. While Goal #1 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to end poverty in all its forms by 2030, he presented these sobering statistics:
* One per cent of the world’s richest persons controls more wealth than 99 per cent of the planet.
* The top one per cent of the world earned 82 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017
* Billionaire wealth has risen by an annual average of 13 per cent
* 116 countries worldwide have their debts beyond critical thresholds and rising
In addition, Archbishop Gordon revealed that based on the survey for Barbados conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank and Barbados’ Statistical Service, poverty increased from 15.1 per cent in 2010 to 17.5 per cent in 2017. “Indeed, 49,000 persons live in poverty, 6,720 are ‘new poor’ and most ‘poor’ households are headed by females.”
The forum was enriched by the technical expertise of Dr Justin Ram, Economics Director of the Caribbean Development Bank who outlined a Blueprint for a Resilient Barbados with a macro-social overview, a summary of the Government of Barbados’ Economic Recovery and Transformation Programme (BERT) and suggestions for Barbados’ economic success.
He highlighted concerns such as the high debt to GDP ratio, more than175 per cent at December 2017; low productivity—Barbados’ ranking 129th out of 190 economies in “ease of doing business”; and high unemployment, especially with respect to women and youth.
Participants had fruitful discussions on how the diocese should revisit or enhance existing initiatives to help the poor have a sustainable livelihood in light of the information shared at the forum.
Catholics were reminded that they must be their brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, and that they must live their faith when making decisions at home, in the community and in the boardroom.
After an engaging 40-minute discussion, each group provided feedback and had a further robust discussion, with the consensus being that each individual, the Church, private sector and State must work together, unceasingly, to address the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.