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‘Red tape stifling country’

Tony Best

‘Red tape stifling country’

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​A bewildering mountain of bureaucratic red tape is strangling Barbados’ economic and social development.

​That complaint came from Evelyn Greaves, a former Cabinet minister who until recently was Barbados’ High Commissioner in Ottawa.

“Frankly, I think our civil service is over-regulated. We have too many regulations that allow people to hide and allow inefficiencies to be covered up,” he told the DAILY Nation in an interview from his home in Barbados.

“Until we get those things removed so that a meritocracy can take over, we are going to continue in this situation where people rise to the top by long service.

“Everybody is looking over his or her shoulder making sure they are not doing anything to offend anybody. It is a very difficult challenge. I really pity people who have to work in this system because it is killing.”

​​Long wait

​​Greaves, whose parliamentary career stretched over almost a quarter of a century, ending in 1994, said that unchecked bureaucracy was stifling progress.

He complained that far too often, straightforward questions which should have been answered with a simple “yes” or “no” took weeks and months as well as several letters to elicit a response.

“I used to pull my hair out to get responses [from Bridgetown], trying to get the bureaucracy to answer,” said the former high commissioner who voluntarily gave up his position in the Canadian capital in June in order to return home and to private life.

“To be frank with you, the bureaucracy in Barbados is killing Barbados. The amount of hoops and loops and things you have to jump through to get a simple answer and get something done, I don’t know why the bureaucracy has become so anti-developmental and so anti-country. You really wonder if these people are representing their country or themselves.


​“It’s very, very difficult to get decisions. Let’s be clear, I am not talking about political decisions, I am talking about matters at the bureaucratic level. It is extremely difficult.”

Interestingly, a similar complaint was made decades ago by Peter Morgan, a former Cabinet minister who later became high commissioner in Canada. He charged back in the 1980s that potentially profitable ventures which could have created jobs and accelerated the pace of development, were allowed to languish for months by civil servants, often killing the projects.

“Let me say nothing has changed [since the late Peter Morgan voiced his concerns],” stressed Greaves, who headed the country’s diplomatic mission to Canada between 2008 and the middle of this year.

Greaves, who served as a senior trade union executive in the Barbados Workers’ Union during much of Sir Frank Walcott’s long and distinguished tenure as general secretary, said the solution to the bureaucratic nightmare could be found in a “meritocracy”.

At different times in the 1980s and 1990s, Greaves was minister of trade, industry, commerce and tourism. He was also responsible for the credit union movement, among other portfolios.

“These observations have been made with a view to instilling urgency of action and improving efficiency and productivity in the public service,” he said.