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Boos calls for economic review

Peter N. Boos

Boos calls for economic review

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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.