FIRING LINE: Special cases of laryngitis
LARYNGITIS SEEMS to be going around. It has become very quiet all of a sudden. No more Estwick publicly complaining. It seems he has been duly disciplined and if his silence is anything to go by that discipline has been duly accepted. The Prime Minister has continued to be silent but this perhaps is par for the course as opposed to exceptional. If I were a betting person I would say that he is the originator of the laryngitis going around.
The trade unions are always threatening to shout but for some reason that never seem to materialise; they, I believe, have a special case of laryngitis. Their voice is only used for inside meetings and Press interviews. They cannot seem to get their outside voice and their feet coordinated. We will wait and see if the Barbados Worker’s Union, which previously had good coordination between voice and feet, will return to form or perhaps the threat of them shouting will be enough to stop any offending action.
It would appear that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was also afflicted by this same lack of coordination between voice and feet (it seems it might be contagious). Clearly Mia Mottley’s message of boycott was not heard among the rank and file or perhaps not so rank and file but fairly heavy hitters within her own party. She should have her laryngitis checked out and perhaps publicly certified by a doctor or else the general public could get the impression that she is not able to marshal her own troops.
Most importantly, two months after the first wave of retrenchments the public has also gone relatively silent; most of us holding to the notion that all we need to do is to keep our heads down in our little corner as we try to survive. To be fair, though, I think the only key player that has not lost their voice is the private sector. They faithfully oscillate between give me more concessions and complaining about not getting enough concessions. Some of that complaining is fair, but the large majority of it is unworthy of a dynamic private sector.
Perhaps my assessment could be all wrong. I must admit I do not hold a doctor’s degree so my diagnosis could be marred by my own perceptions of the role of the players involved. It could be just a case of the “calm before the storm” as we wait for the next wave of retrenchments to hit.
This would be unfortunate as it would suggest another condition, which I will call “stasis”. It is a condition of inertia or stillness. If all we are doing is either preparing or waiting for the next round of lay-offs, then those of us who are able should all pray because this condition could be fatal. I perhaps will kneel over a heart condition caused by impatience and frustration.
I had remained optimistic that, theoretically, situations such as these foster innovation and change. Somehow the forces that precipitated this economic distress should have collided with the forces that require change and we should have been seeing some new things, but alas stasis hit. Except for the proposed Barbados Revenue Authority which I believe has only been given some urgent feet because it represents a legitimate way to send home some workers, it seems that little else is happening. I was hoping that we would have realized that the retrenchment is one pillar and that some new development would have been happening to restructure and revitalize the economy as well as the Public Service.
These things need to happen simultaneously if indeed we are to benefit from any gains. Importantly, I was hoping to hear of plans to restructure the social safety net to assist Barbadians in the fallout of the economic situation.
Transferring a bigger budget to the Welfare Department will not cut it if that does not occur with an overall diagnosis of the situation. We have a perception about the economic resilience of our population which is falsely fuelled by the number of cars on the road, antennas on houses and the amount of weave Bajan women buy. The day-to-day reality is much different.
Unfortunately, the condition of stasis has seemingly impaired our ability to work on different things at the same time. So while the Government works feverishly to create a new list and offers little direction elsewhere, the private sector positions itself to work only hard enough to capitalize on short-term initiatives and the trade unions and public remain scared and defeated – the country advances how again?
Did I say previously that the condition could be fatal for all concerned? This situation requires a team of specialist doctors with enough meditation to cure all of us. Actually, what we need is an urgent visitation from the greatest physician of them all. He perhaps is our only hope.
Shantal Munro-Knight is a development specialist and executive coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre.