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In my first blog, I spoke of the Deficit Committee of the Social Partnership and their Action Plan to reduce the fiscal deficit. (Report of the Fiscal Deficit Committee of the Social Partnership)
The plan included agenda items to assist the country in making a comeback and rise from the slump of austerity.
The Ease of Doing Business has become a buzz phrase. However, one of my own favorite phrases is root cause analysis. Many times, we see problems as having ‘easy’ solutions and can never understand why those in charge are blind to low hanging fruit. At times, I can wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment, as I watch other countries with similar resources and circumstances execute what we struggle to implement. I do also realise that things are not always as they appear.
In the early days of the Facebook group, Social Accountability and Education in Barbados, a slew of suggestions came in from members for improvements; many were great and labeled as easy. I asked for assistance with some of the simpler suggestions and very quickly, what was easy became impossible. Some of the key reasons included:
Insufficient time to invest in the venture;
Lack of knowledge or skills;
Lack of willpower to see the activity through to fruition.
As I reviewed the Deficit Committee’s Action Plan to restore investor confidence, I thought of this example and realized that we do not necessarily have an issue with the plan itself, but needed a better understanding of the barriers to execution and how to overcome them. The Action Plan included:
Enacting Flexible Working Arrangements legislation to allow businesses to operate 24/7 without elevated wage rates, e.g., “double time”;
Rolling out the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) World and connecting to the Electronic Single Window to reduce time and transaction costs associated with imports;
Introducing an Electronic Property Register to reduce the average time to resister property from 105 days to less than 20;
Re-engineering Town Planning’s processes and regulations to reduce the average time to obtain construction permits from the current 14 months to less than 3;
Facilitating a credit bureau establishment for faster adjudication and more transparent access to credit;
Facilitating increased access to venture capital and exploring alternative financing to accommodate easier access to startup capital, more businesses and higher employment.
Many would more or less agree that the anticipated outcomes would be extremely positive. Barbados genuinely needs more businesses to set up on our shores to stimulate activity and job opportunities. However, let us apply the tenets identified in my earlier example:
TIME: Many persons are at work for eight hours and tend not to be idle. If you are occupied with your daily duties, how will you make time for additional ones? And for those that argue to put the idle ones to work, note that those who shirk from regular duties are unlikely to take on additional duties. Worse yet, the current legislation makes it exceedingly difficult to fire appointed workers for incompetence.
KNOWLEDGE: Many of the initiatives above will call for skills and knowledge that the current workforce may not have, particularly for IT implementations. Serious thought must go into time for training and the associated costs.
WILLPOWER is the most difficult obstacle to overcome, as people respond to different incentives to become motivated. Motivational factors include financial benefits, inspired leadership, praise, rewards, and so on. Ensuring that those in charge of managing these processes understand how to motivate their team will be critical.
I had expected the national discussion to include a modification of the ideas presented and to take into consideration the current obstacles faced by the public sector. However, the discussion centered almost entirely around one issue, for which the decision had likely been made well in advance.
I do hope that we continue the public discussion, as I still thought it was a very step for citizens to witness firsthand the discussions that are usually held behind closed doors. I did not expect perfection on the first try and I hope that with time, we engage in more serious discussion and drive to implement the changes required for a better Barbados.