Environmental Planning in Barbados: A Confident State, Isolated Environmental Movements, and Anxious Development Consultants

Article excerpt

This paper explores the 'confidence' that different groups have during environmental planning in Barbados. It shows how anxious donor agencies and Western consultants have been accused of projecting their vision of development onto the country. I examine how isolated environmental movements act unaccountably on behalf of a disengaged population. As a result, with the legacy of independence still in people's memories, the State of Barbados speaks with a certain amount of legitimacy when undertaking environmental planning.

KEY WORDS: anxious donors, anti-development, Barbados, Caribbean, environmental planning


From recent events in international relations after 9/11 it would appear that 'the West' has asserted itself as a dominant and powerful ideological force on non-Western countries. As illustrated in Hardt and Negri's (2000) influential text Empire, cited at many academic conferences as the 'Communist Manifesto for the twenty-first century,' lines are once again being drawn between the multitude of people that inhabit the globe and the dominant forms of development and capitalism that have emerged in the West. In this paper, however, I make a rather different argument suggesting that Western donor agencies lack the associated strength of confidence that is often implied by such commentators when projecting their visions for material change in the developing world. The central (and admittedly controversial) point that I wish to make is that a shift in development regimes from within the West illustrates the lack of confidence that Western donor agencies and consultants have to implement substantial material goals for change. There is also the associated power that even the smallest states, such as Barbados, have gained as a result of the experience of post-colonialism; the movement towards the idea of 'local solutions to local problems' within mainstream political and academic circles more generally and the anti-development protests and organizations operating particularly in the Western world. Such (anti-) developments have played an important role in increasing the anxiety which Western donor agencies have to project their vision for material change onto the developing world. Perhaps readers studying other areas of the world will read this paper and identify similar anxieties in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East, for example (also see Pender 2001 and Chandler 2004). For my part, I shall focus upon the Caribbean country of Barbados.

This paper is essentially about the role of 'confidence' in environmental planning. It will be shown how the state of Barbados has the confidence to influence decisions, when compared to not only anxious donor agencies, but also isolated environmental movements. Barbados is the easternmost of the Caribbean countries, and 431 [km.sup.2] in size. It is a parliamentary democracy that became independent from the United Kingdom on 30 November 1966. The Prime Minister is Owen Arthur, who was elected for a third term on 21 May 2003. The population of Barbados is 278,289 (estimated in CIA WorldFactbook 2005).

The paper first discusses how donor agencies no longer have the confidence to project their own vision of development onto developing countries such as Barbados. As a result, since the mid-1990s, strict development conditionalities have been replaced by the idea of 'locally-based solutions' and 'partnerships' between Barbados and foreign development consultants (United Nations Development Program 1994). In practice, however, it will be shown that this shift in development policy means that the state dominates local-policy making, with foreign development consultants having little political influence. Moreover, the isolated and disconnected nature of local environmental movements in Barbados--often dominated by disconnected foreign peoples who cannot rally together local communities to lobby government for change-further strengthens the centralized power of the State. …