Boos calls for economic review
Rotary Club Barbados invited me to make a presentation at a recent members’ lunch.
My topic was Regaining Paradise – a call to action by civil society to immediately collectively establish a mechanism to address the deteriorating confidence in the state of affairs in Barbados by engaging with all key stakeholders, including Government and the Opposition, and embracing all our National Resources to:
(a) openly and comprehensively address urgent national economic concerns, and
(b) review our National Governance Model by making our existing Westminster style model more effective and relevant for our times.
Inviting the IMF to partner with us in the economic transformation aspects is wise. We need their expertise and financial resources to regain our international credit ratings and reputation for sound and prudent financial management. Additionally such a partnership will ensure the transparency and accountability which is now lacking.
This will immediately improve confidence which is now absent.
We have all been complicit in permitting Party Politics to dominate National Governance, resulting in the corruption of the good intentions of the Founders of our Independence in 1966.
This situation cannot continue.
Barbados is a wonderful country with resilient, friendly, intelligent people. All of us fortunate enough to live here are passionate about keeping it as a model of sound governance for others to admire and seek to emulate.
There is no reason why Barbados, given its progress so far, should not be a shining example of a well led and managed Small Island State.
At present we are heading for further decline as we pursue a plan that lacks clarity and communication as to its strategic vision.
The Government must articulate its vision for the nation and how this is to be achieved.
We can build a growing sustainable economy based on the competitive skills of Barbadians combined in partnership with global stakeholders who have our interests at heart.
This requires leadership based on integrity and high, commonly-shared,values plus management grounded in competence and accountability.
166 square miles and less than 300 000 people is surely manageable ?
The Rotary presentation highlighted several areas where clearly our performance is weak and worsening.
These are a few:
• loss of confidence in our economic strategy and management(e.g. our international credit ratings are at an all-time low),
• visibly low productivity and poor work ethic,
• unaffordable “freeness and entitlements culture”,
• poor responsiveness (facilitated by bureaucratic processes) of some public sector services,
• unsupportive business facilitation culture,
• under-performing legal justice system,
• lack of accountability and transparency in public finance (see 2013 Auditor General’s Report),
• abuse of NIS Fund,
• absence of leadership at many levels in all sectors,
• weak private sector management,
• need for a new model of labour-management relations,
• patronage and corruption in party politics.
These problems have been developing for quite some time and we all have to accept some degree of responsibility and must now together find the right solutions.
Striking quick,panic deals that lack transparency and a strategic fit to our national vision is undesirable.
The loan from Credit Suisse, the Almond/Sandals agreement, the Four Seasons investment etc. are recent examples. We are now hearing of major investments relating to Andrews Sugar Factory and a Waste To Energy Project but details are absent.The last Central Bank report refers to $4.5 billion in foreign investment in the next 3 years but where are the details? Is the UAE about to give Barbados a huge loan? If so on what terms? What is to happen with the CLICO assets?
Immediately Barbados needs a team of competent people to form a nucleus of an executive advisory group on the economy and another similarly resourced group to advise on national governance reform.
These teams should be appointed by the Social Partners, including the Opposition.
Selection must be based on integrity and competence and free of political bias.
Both these teams would be accountable to Parliament.
There are many well qualified, non-partisan persons who, given the opportunity, would wish to help.
Our Government should welcome a discussion of these ideas with all stakeholders, including the Opposition and other important voices in civil society.
To delay will be both unwise and costly.
Let’s all put Barbados first.