AS I SEE THINGS: Government for the people
As I listen to the debates and various reactions in relation to the Municipal Solid Waste Tax, I am left to wonder to what extent we in Barbados fully appreciate the current state of the economy and the kind of approach needed to turn the ship of state around to the benefit of many of our citizens.
I have adopted that position because in recent times Government has found itself having to make major adjustments to policies because of outcries from various sections of the population who express strong opposition to the proposed measures for one reason or the other.
Yet, there does not appear to be a strong sense of urgency on the part of those in authority to make necessary and critical changes to their approach to policy formulation and implementation.
Let’s face it, if the Barbadian economy was growing from year to year for the past five years, employment increasing, the cost of living falling, and workers’ real income mounting, there would be little if any major negative reaction to possible tax hikes because people generally would accept that they are capable of absorbing the increasing burden of greater taxation.
But when, as it now stands, the economy is weak and peoples’ ability to pay is in serious doubts, then, everyone should expect a more forceful reaction to increased taxes as is now evident throughout the country with respect to the solid waste tax.
Logically, then, if we are practising government for the people, we should all expect changes in the manner in which those in authority approach the task of nation building. And those changes must be consistent with the times.
With a strong Opposition presence in the House of Assembly and people who are generally more aware of what’s happening in and out of Barbados given the availability of a much wider range of technology, the Government should understand that it has to be much more careful in the way in which it approaches policies because everything it does will come under increasing scrutiny.
Hence, therefore, the best option at the disposal of the Government in the current economic environment is the consultative approach to the formulation of major policies.
Interestingly, only a few weeks ago in one of my columns that addressed the development challenges facing the country and how the Government should respond, I said this: “Going forward, the Prime Minister should lead by example and address the country on the true state of the economy and make concrete suggestions for resolving the critical problems facing us as a small nation, as a first step. Then, his proposals should be presented to the major stakeholders for further discussions and consensus building. Finally, the people must be given an opportunity to have their say on the way forward.”
Indeed, the message to our Government could not be clearer. We all have to appreciate that this country’s current economic problems cannot be resolved amicably without meaningful inputs from as wide a cross section of interests.
Otherwise, the cycle of protests over major policies will continue. And all of the issues surrounding the present municipal solid waste tax bear this out.
Are we getting the message?