EDITORIAL: Remedying nation’s low productivity
Concerns about levels of productivity are widespread across Barbados, whether in relation to the public sector or the private sector. The debate about the need for enhanced productivity has gained momentum within recent times as the country deals with its challenging economic situation.
It is a matter that employers, both large and small, consider to be a key factor in the success of their organizations, in particular, and the country in general. There is universal agreement that if this country is to be successful, in both goods and services, in an increasingly competitive international environment, productivity levels must be raised.
The message has been consistent and almost in unison, whether from the leadership of the private sector, Ambassador Robert Morris or Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss.
The minister in his plain-speaking style was blunt in his comments: “We must disabuse our mind of any view that we are the most productive society around.” But, while we have heard virtually the same message from different people, the response has been different.
The classic example has been the case of businessman Ralph Johnson, who also did not mince his words when he chose to speak on the issue of low productivity in this country’s workforce.
As someone who has led a successful manufacturing enterprise for a number of decades, he should bring a good first-hand perspective to the situation.
Johnson’s comments were delivered in a direct manner that many other leaders, whether in the public or private sector, would want to employ but simply lack the heart to try.
Johnson is one of few local businesses to have stepped beyond our shores to expand his business and must certainly want to leave behind the legacy of a sound business. It is by speaking up that he showed not only courage to tackle a national problem but also commitment to his country.
There must be agreement with those comments on the need to redress this situation no matter who the author or presenter may be.
This situation cannot be a case of employers versus workers; Whites versus Blacks; rich versus poor. Neither must it be a blame game, focused on our culture, historical factors or ownership structure. The evidence is there as the research shows Barbados ranking low in work ethic and competitiveness, with poor productivity.
We must not skirt around the issue by trying to make it appear that we do not have a problem. The personal attacks on Johnson or others in the business community will not resolve anything. As a nation, we must not shoot the messenger. Rather, we must have this difficult but informed discussion since we need to take urgent corrective action.