What Matters Most: Deal with real issues
The folly continues. Apparently, it has been discovered that there is wisdom in appealing to the emotions of the electorate, especially following the outcome in the recent general election. So ignorance is now to be excused once the message tugs at the heart of the voter. I was told that the Democratic Labour Party’s advertisements on privatisation during the last election campaign were not designed for the voters who reasoned, but rather for the others.
It does appear that the recent comments on the fees of lawyers and doctors by the new Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development fit in the mould of the privatisation advertisements.
Imagine that a Government Minister has charged that the fee structure for lawyers and health care professionals is so skewed in their favour that it has resulted in wealth for a few and crumbs for the majority of Barbadians. This can only be described as ignorance on stilts parading as common sense.
The observation that all lawyers and doctors are wealthy because of the fee structure is not to be scoffed at as it is consistent with a new trend in politics – ignore the facts and appeal to the emotions.
The comments by Minister Inniss must be viewed as an attempt to associate wealth with a particular kind of money grabbing professional class.
In the political arena, such observations are deliberately constructed to separate the haves from the have-nots with the intention of providing verbal comfort to the latter. This approach becomes especially offensive when it flows from a fountain of deceit, where the author belongs to the haves, having had access to his own unregulated fee structure in pricing his professional services on his way to being wealthy.
The reality is that several lawyers and doctors have struggled in the prevailing economic climate, where the government’s policies have stifled spending power among Barbadians, increased the cost of doing business and made it extremely difficult for new practitioners in these two chosen fields.
The ignorance on stilts is best exemplified with reference to the statement of a “surplus of lawyers in Barbados”. In similar reasoning, there must be a surplus of doctors.
It was suggested that all practitioners in these two professions are wealthy at the same time that they are in surplus that is an excess of supply. For these two statements to be truthful, the spending power of Barbadians would have had to be increasing exponentially over the last few decades. For the most part, both lawyers and doctors provide services to the average Barbadian. It is common sense therefore to conclude that the income of the average Barbadian is the best indicator of the potential of practitioners in these two fields to become wealthy. The evidence does not support the allegation that all lawyers and doctors are wealthy because of the fee structure or any other structure.
Perhaps the business structure favours a few lawyers. In addition, the political structure appeals to some lawyers and doctors. However such favour or appeal has nothing to do with the fee structure and more to do with alliances.
Given the major task at hand for the new government with respect to cutting expenditure, it may serve the new minister well to identify why the government is able to pay such heavy legal fees for apparently routine legal services as happened recently at the Barbados Water Authority.
The truth is that getting a fair slice of the cake, especially in the legal profession, has become increasing difficult. As a result, the competition has become a “rat race” and may very well explain the continued attraction of some lawyers to the politics, or the politician of the day.
To speak ill of the two most desired professions of post-independent Barbados, which arguably represent the best examples of small business development in the country and then talk about small business as the way forward shows complete ignorance of the issues on the part of the new minister.
No development of the small business sector is possible in the absence of increasing the spending power of Barbadians. It is cheap talk being purchased with expensive political posturing and opportunism. The time has come to get real about the issues affecting the Barbados economy and stop trying to find scapegoats to put the blame on.
A look in the mirror by members of the cabinet would reveal those responsible for the state of the country’s finances. Time for solutions not blame! • Clyde Mascoll is an economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party spokesman on the economy. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.