Help regain paradise
Peter Boos was on target with his Rotary presentation last week. In his courageous, wide-ranging presentation, I see three main issues – need for a governance system where leadership, integrity and transparency are key; executive body comprising politicians from both sides, and civil society with experience and expertise to offer; approach the IMF to access enough funds to get us back to a stable position in an environment of discipline and transparency which will give confidence to investors.
The younger business people aren’t satisfied with the status quo and want wider participation in important decision-making.
While it’s true that more people are speaking out than previously, many are still reluctant to air their views publicly for fear of victimisation. We could say “Why bother when Government isn’t prepared to listen?” Voicing your opinion is now met with intimidation, insults and accusations of sedition and inciting violence. No wonder Miss Mottley has gone silent and even the Press seems to be losing its freedom.
Most of the solutions to our major problems have been voiced by all and sundry – from our best brains to the everyday caller or writer to the media. But to no avail. Advice from the Opposition is like “a red rag to a bull”. That’s why the Rubbing Shoulders initiative, welcomed by many, was doomed from the start, as was the idea of an eminent persons group to advise Government. Let’s hope that Mr Boos’ suggestion falls on more fertile ground.
Some claim that the idea of a collective body is “pie in the sky” since Government wouldn’t hand over responsibility to those not elected to parliament. This isn’t logical since almost half the Cabinet members either failed at the polls or never faced them.
Ironically, Prime Minister Stuart’s reported negative comments regarding the eminent persons group are in stark contrast to the late David Thompson’s 2009 comments “ . . . those countries displaying encouraging signs of coping, . . . are those that have been able to unite their best minds and brains around the problem and rally their populations towards a common sense of purpose. They work like a team, pursuing a goal, pulling together, managing internal conflict and keeping their eyes on the prize. The one thing that Barbados starts with is our Social Partnership. Our next step is to create a Team Barbados strategy and work together to achieve our goals.”
But I wouldn’t use the Social Partnership as the basis of an executive group going forward. While this may have served its purpose in 1991, it seems to have become “tainted” and ineffective. Let’s start fresh, recognising of course that governance reform will take time which we don’t have, so in parallel, policies like those Peter Boos suggests . . . building confidence with investors (not by giving massive concessions to a few chosen ones); reducing taxation (and business costs); reducing cost and size of Government (whilst improving effectiveness); labour productivity; removal of exchange controls and restrictive skilled immigration policies; entrepreneurship development; diversifying the economy’s export potential, and vastly improving all aspects of business facilitation . . . must be implemented without delay.
And don’t blame the message (Westminster system) this time, blame the messengers (politicians). As Sir Roy Marshall states: “The political and institutional structures of our Westminster system of parliamentary government have served us well thus far and require no radical overhaul. Certain aspects of those arrangements do, however, merit updating and modernisation to equip our leaders, at all levels, and our society as a whole to respond effectively to the pace of change and complexity of governance in the 21st century.
“There are five areas where I think further democratisation of our structures and systems would serve to enhance the calibre of our governance and encourage greater participation by an enlightened citizenry in the development of the nation. These include leadership selection, parliamentary reform, the modernisation of political parties, governance at the local level and Public Sector reform.”
Finally, our leaders would do well to remember that “before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others”. I join the call to put Barbados first and regain our “Paradise Lost”.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former independent senator. Email: [email protected]