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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Blame the people

Dr Frances Chandler

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Blame the people

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Why shoot ourselves in the foot?
We harp on our difficulties, but instead of recognizing that we’re often our biggest problem, we blame everything else, especially the global recession. As was noted recently in The Hoyos File, which commented on excuses given for the downturn in tourism, “Blame it on the airlines. Blame it on Almond. Blame it on REDjet. Blame it on the APD. Blame it on the boogie. But don’t ever even think of blaming it on the DLP [Democratic Labour Party] administration or its hard-working tourism boss.” This is true not only for the DLP, not only for tourism but for every aspect of our economy.
Barbadians continue to “shoot themselves in the foot” instead of making an extra effort in view of the global situation. Although we hear “it cannot be business as usual”, the authorities continue to accept irresponsible behaviour, with the excuse that it has been happening for years. I was disappointed at the Attorney General’s recently quoted response to the question of some attorneys at law not paying their subscription fees that this “had been going on for years”.  All the more reason to correct it. 
The sugar industry, which, contrary to popular belief, earns significant foreign exchange directly and indirectly through the rum trade; provides employment; and protects the environment, is on its knees. So what do we do? We delay the start of crop and  burn the cane, both resulting in  major losses.
Barbados is a water-scarce country. Do we conserve water for useful purposes? No. Water is used to extinguish the fires reported almost every day. There are those who blame the fires on the dry, hot weather, but deep down we know that this isn’t so.
Recently, a security guard, of all people, confessed to lighting three fields of cane totalling eighty acres. To add insult to injury the “security guard” has two prior convictions for theft.
Not to mention the warehouse fires and the fire at the recycling business. Added to the wastage of water is the damage posed to the health of fire officers and the public, all of which draws on limited Government finances. What will the penalty to the perpetrator(s) be? I wonder.
We seem to be placing all our hopes on tourism for our “golden egg”, but what do we do? We shoot and rob the tourists. We’re fortunate that Barbados seems to have some magical allure for visitors that outweighs the effects of crimes and they forgive us and come back. I was surprised by the generous attitude of the cruise ship visitors recently shot in Bridgetown. I was half expecting them to praise the attackers for not hurting them more seriously!
Then there are the villa owners returning 60 times after being continually robbed and more recently the Tent Bay robbery, after which those visitors also promised to return. But we cannot continue to rely on this forgiveness. All reports must be taken seriously, and the criminals brought to justice and heavily penalized with some urgency. We cannot accept that court cases take years to be concluded, because “it has always been so”.
Then there is the fiscal deficit. Part of Government’s revenue is taxes. If taxes aren’t collected, revenue will suffer. The answer is not to add new taxes to those who already conscientiously pay, but to collect from those who default year after year. Imagine a company being allowed to accumulate millions of dollars in tax, VAT and NIS over several years. Why was this not nipped in the bud? Similarly with rents and utilities controlled by Government. But we’ve become accustomed to Government being run so slackly that debts to Government are not considered important. Again, this “it has always been so” attitude.
We hear with monotonous regularity that “people are our greatest resource” but some are our greatest hindrance, and authorities must take serious action to ensure that the hindrances are dealt with accordingly. Instead of continually blaming external forces, let’s manage our internal affairs so that we will be better able to weather the global economic storm.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator.