Since the assumption by Dr DeLisle Worrell of the governorship of Barbados’ Central Bank, one of the obvious tactics of the Opposition has been to directly attack him on [his views and performance]. Significantly, independent observers have studiously avoided repeating such claims, since there are certain public offices, like Governor General, Police Commissioner and Central Bank Governor, which are generally accepted as being above ordinary criticism.
However, the decision by Dr Worrell to ban the Nation from attending Central Bank Press conferences and other media events “hosted by myself as governor”, for what was essentially a misleading headline, and following a retraction by the Nation itself, represents a significant lowering of the protective walls hitherto immunising his office from public comment.
To issue a ban and to accuse the Nation of “lack of professional integrity” is burning a house to kill an ant. Banning a media house for a misleading headline is the kind of action associated with backward tin-pot dictators, rather than very intelligent, highly placed civil servants. In a context of authoritarian political leadership, our leading public servants must lift the political culture above the paranoid vindictiveness that we associate with insecure politicians, drunk on power.
In a context where his detractors have tried to tie him to the politicians, Dr Worrell should have acted with greater magnanimity. One wonders whether a similar decision by the governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Back against, say, a Vincentian newspaper, would not be seen as damaging the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States integration project and would not be perceived as the governor overstepping his economic remit.
Coming out of a very bad week in which Worrell announced yet another quarter of economic inertia, and in which he was roundly condemned for advocating VAT abolition in which he sounded more like a speculative graduate student rather than as a senior policy advisor, it was in Dr Worrell’s interest to out rather than stoke potential fires.
Instead, Worrell opened his office to further negative scrutiny. It will not be surprising if global media watchdogs include his action among the developments suggesting recent attacks on Press freedom in Barbados. The governor has also taken the criticism of his performance away from narrow partisan hands and placed it squarely in the impartial public domain.
Indeed, the Front Page Sunday Sun commentary in which the Nation listed the economic failures of Barbados under the watch of Dr Worrell, and the reminder to him that there is much to which he “needs to pay attention and keep Barbadians informed in a timely manner”, suggests that Dr Worrell had now fallen below the “high standard expected of his high office and the great record set by his esteemed predecessors”.
In the context of continued economic decline, the Central Bank cannot be perceived as both a source of economic failure and political folly. Clearly, Dr Worrell has erred terribly.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]