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Civil service can make or break


PETER WEBSTER

Civil service can make or break

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I REFER TO David Comissiong’s well written tribute to Lee Kuan Yew in which he lists the Singapore leader’s policies and achievements and compares them unfavourably with those of Barbados.

Unfortunately, Mr Comissiong, like almost all others who comment on Lee Kuan Yew’s economic model for Singapore, has failed to recognise the key fundamental element and cornerstone of that model. That is, public servant performance and productivity, without which Singapore would have been no better off than Barbados.

Many make the mistake that everything begins and ends with the political leader. All the visionary policies of Lee Kuan Yew would have come to naught had he failed to motivate the public servants in Singapore to implement those policies quickly and efficiently, which led their economy to grow from strength to strength.

In Singapore, public servants are better paid than their private sector counterparts and those who underperform are sanctioned and very few need to be sanctioned. Who knows what the Right Excellent Errol Barrow’s Barbados would have achieved if his “army of occupation” had ceased to just occupy and instead produced.

The University of St George’s might still be in Barbados along with dozens of investors who were turned off by the negative response of our public servants, and both Barrow’s and Tom Adams’ visionary policies would have received greater recognition.

Major physical development projects in Singapore get planning approval in less than six months instead of six years as they do in Barbados. There are few arrears in the Student Revolving Loan Scheme in Singapore because the public servants do what is necessary to collect the repayments that are due and Singapore’s Auditor General seldom has a negative report. When that happens woe be unto those so identified. They are held accountable. Not in Barbados!

Why does Barbados have a plethora of state corporations? This was the political response to get around the established, underperforming bureaucracy. And these state corporations perform no better. Check out: BADMC, BAMC, BDB, BIDC, CBC, GEMS, RDC, UDC, Transport Board, NPC, Harrisons Cave, QEH et al.

Barbados will continue to be an underdeveloped nation with high unemployment, low per capita income and high per capita debt service until our public servants are motivated with performance rewards and sanctions, based on a valid and all inclusive performance evaluation system involving every ministry, department, unit and individual from the minister to the messenger. Can we entertain any expectation that will ever happen?

– PETER WEBSTER

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