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AS I SEE THINGS: Guided by experience

Brian Francis

AS I SEE THINGS: Guided by experience

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As I reflect on all of the goings on in Barbados and the wider Caribbean, I am forced to speculate whether as a people we fail over and over again to learn from history.
I speak of the political front with the ruling and opposition parties in Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago; in relation to our economies and their dismal state of affairs coupled with the absence of any real leadership on display from the political ends in our various Ministries of Finance; and with respect to our trade unions where some of our labour leaders seem more concerned about which political party is in power as opposed to fighting for the rights of the workers.
While I am wondering about the answer to that important question, the notion instantaneously flowed through my mind that experience is supposed to be the greatest teacher; yet, serious doubts now exist in my simple way of thinking about that splendid idea – doubts based exclusively on the deeds of our political, economic and trade union leaders on a daily basis.
Take for example, all of the recent pronouncements from the Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell and Minister of Finance in relation to the attraction of foreign investments, works done by his administration to date, the ability of his Government to secure significant amounts of debt relief from some of the country’s creditors, and the fiscal adjustments necessary to restore internal macroeconomic equilibrium to the ailing Grenadian economy and ask yourself whether or not the prime minister is governing in 2013 or back in 1995.
You see, even though Grenadians have been put through an extensive period of excellent training and education starting from the revolutionary era, the prime minister still evidently speaks to his citizens as if they are all “fools” for want of a more mature expression.
Is the prime minister learning from past experiences? Sadly, the Grenadian Prime Minister is not alone in that displayed behavioural pattern. Other similar cases exist in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago, just to name a few.
Consequently, in my day to day dealings, I have learned to tune out of all the uttering coming from our various leaders, particularly when it comes to the handling of our financial and economic affairs. To put it brusquely, I have absolutely no confidence in the leadership of our various prime ministers and ministers of finance to take our regional economies back to the glory days of low unemployment, little inflation (particularly at the micro level), sustainable fiscal and debt positions, sustained levels of economic growth and development, manageable deficits on the external current account, jobs for the “massive”, and advancements in sport and culture any time soon.
And as if that situation is not bad enough, those charged with the responsibility of managing our economies often behave as if they are untouchable and beyond condemnation.  But if they want to behave as if “life is a straight road” then they can continue along that chosen path of taking every commentary about their performances on the job in a personal capacity. Does that bother me? Not one bit!
Hence, my unsolicited advice to our economic leaders is: Be real men and women and act professionally at all times and everything will be fine. Use your intellect, talent, training, education and, above all, experiences to respond to criticisms robustly as opposed to personalizing everything said not about you as individuals but in relation to your performances on the job! Remember, experience is the greatest teacher.
• Brian M. Francis, PhD is a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus.