EDITORIAL: Time to lend that helping hand
It is a season of uncertainty and nervousness for many workers across Barbados. This must certainly be the case not only for 3 000 in the public sector who will be losing their jobs early in 2014, but for those in the private sector who may very well be indirect victims of this cutback. The challenge going forward is how best these displaced workers will be retrained and retooled for re-entry into the workforce.
If these cutbacks are to be handled effectively, then a number of things must be done to ensure an equitable outcome. This will necessitate the political directorate using moral suasion as well as giving strong direction to achieve the best results.
Many of the workers who will find themselves out of work do not simply need an assurance that there will be timely delivery of social security cheques, but guidance on how best to reorder their lives from this terrible shock.
Financial institutions will need to work with customers to refinance loans so as to allow payments perhaps over a longer period. Many people facing financial hardship simply do not know how to speak to their banks and credit unions about restructuring their debts.
There will most certainly be psychological and psychiatric fallout for some people who will not find it easy to cope, particularly those not highly certified and ill equipped to compete in a demanding marketplace. It is important that the prerequisite counselling be put in place.
The opportunity for some displaced workers to help with their children’s education, even by way of being guarantors for students’ loans, will also disappear. This can have a negative effect on family, the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill campus, and the country. This also can lead to despondency and depression.
The negatives for thousands of Barbadians are many and it will make no sense pointing to what the people of Greece, Ireland or Spain have had to endure.
Government agencies must do their part, and do so quickly and effectively if those negatively impacted over the next 24 months are to feel and see some hope in the future. Barbados Community College, Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and the Technical and Vocational Training Board must all offer more relevant opportunities to meet needs.
The Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, along with agencies such as FundAccess and the Enterprise Growth Fund, must identify and highlight those areas of entrepreneurship which offer the best opportunities to attract funding, where there is a demand for goods and services and there is a market, particularly overseas, which can generate foreign exchange.
Those Government departments and agencies providing social services must treat the public with decorum and urgency and not as beggars at the gate.
This is not a time to point a finger, but to lend a helping hand.