ONLY HUMAN: We need the best brains
Imagine a Barbados where most householders pay for garbage collection, national public transport is in the hands of the private sector, online payment of local bills is commonplace, and service excellence is a way of life.
This could happen in our immediate future under a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration. A case of 21st century solutions to build a 21st century government, society and economy.
In his address to the Barbados Association of Office Professionals (BAOP) on the topic Embracing Transformation: A Barbadian Imperative, Opposition Leader Owen Arthur was adamant that “[Barbados] must transform or perish”.
He said: “We need . . . to evolve and implement new policies for new times to take us to a higher and more sustainable plateau of national development.”
Arthur emphasized that Barbadians need to recognize that for future success we must be prepared to be innovative and flexible.
“. . . We constantly have to adapt and transform policies and programmes to suit changing and evolving circumstances . . . ,” the former Prime Minister said.
What drew me to this speech was the picture of future development of Barbados that Arthur sought to paint, and a specific similarity with what we were hearing since 2009 from former Opposition Leader Mia Mottley.
Getting into specifics, Arthur told the BAOP: “For many years Barbados’ development has been driven by its investment in its social capital, especially education and health.
“The point has, however, now been reached where the social sector and the social entitlements that are paid for by the state are too large for the economy to carry.”
Back on September 29, 2010, Mottley said in her address to the Chamber of Commerce & Industry at Hilton Barbados that Government should not continue to wholly own and manage some of its facilities, when to do so would “challenge its ability to afford other services and benefits which are more important to us as a society – like affordable health care and free tertiary education”.
In other fora she spelt out her vision by asking, rhetorically, if people would prefer to pay a little for garbage collection while continually getting health care and education free.
At one such gathering, a political meeting, Mottley explained that Government spent about $55 million providing islandwide garbage collection. This included collection from businesses that at present pay nothing for this service.
She argued it would be better for Government to charge householders and businesses for this service, exempting only those below the poverty line. Minus this figure, that would free up at least $50 million in revenue that could be put to health or education.
This move would also enfranchise workers as some of them would be able to buy over vehicles and form small businesses providing this service.
On the Transport Board, she asked: “Why should Government invest another $100 million in debt to purchase equipment [buses] and operational expenses over the next decade when it can contract out its routes to private operators for a fixed fee monthly in a highly regulated environment . . . ?
“Why can’t the men and women who have been driving the buses for years be empowered to become owners, along with other private investors in the sector?”
Mottley, too, proposed that a few statutory corporations like the Barbados National Oil Company (BNOC) could be divested in such a way that they are able to widen the ownership base by involving other investors. This way they would be able to raise capital for that organization while ensuring that Government can focus on its core responsibility of regulation while creating a platform for ownership.
I quoted extensively from both Arthur and Mottley because the similarity in their vision for the future development of Barbados suggests that whatever the challenges – real or imagined – they may have working together, the party’s policy is likely to be singular in focus.
Equally significant, too, is that now the rift in the BLP seems to be healing, there are signs all is not well in the ruling Democratic Labour Party hierarchy given the fallout from the Eager Eleven saga.
Whether this is true or not, my hope is that for the sake of all Barbadians both political parties get their act together as in these trying times we need the best brains working for us.