Posted on

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: What Barbados needs

Dr Frances Chandler, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: What Barbados needs

Social Share

WE’VE BEEN told that corruption continues to cause devastation worldwide and it’s those who have least who suffer most. More than one in four people worldwide apparently believe they’ve lost business because a competitor paid a bribe and that the main barrier to stopping corruption is that it’s widely accepted as a way of life.

In the Caribbean,V.S. Naipaul was quoted as saying that corruption doesn’t provoke outrage, but rather amusement and mild approval, while Dr Terrence Farrell tells us that in Trinidad, corruption and trickery are normal and have become endemic in the society.

Of course there are some Barbadians who are in denial and say “Dah can’t happen here” just as they denied that gangs and violence were a real problem when the issue was raised a few years ago. And look what’s happening now.

Is that what we want in Barbados? I hope not. We’ve also been told that commitments to change this situation have been made globally, but that implementation is lacking and change requires action from all – state institutions, civil society, businesses and citizens. We all have to bring about the change.

Happily, we’ve seen a start, with the launching of the Trinidad group “The Third Force” which chairman Timothy Hamel Smith said was “created with the explicit intent of making a real difference to the politics of the country: one based upon principled governance”. He continued: “The whole reason for our existence has been based upon three key foundation principles: The implementation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act, 2015; the enactment of party and campaign financing legislation; the amendment of our Constitution so as to introduce a fair electoral voting system.” The group’s ambition is to influence change in the present way of governance . . . to effect change . . . to drive for more honest, transparent and principled governance, no matter which party is in power.

It saddens me that in Barbados we’re hearing more and more people saying they aren’t voting because both parties are the same, more interested in personal gain than the national good. It saddens me when I hear it said that what’s happening in Barbados makes corruption seem like a good word.

Who can forget the uproar, particularly in the last election, about vote buying? Prime Minister Stuart reportedly indicated he was committed to stamping it out, yet more than two years later no full investigation has apparently happened and no one has been brought to justice. The voices of those who expressed concern about us going into another election “where significant sums of money are peddled on the streets for votes” seem to have been ignored.

Do we want elections that are decided by money? What’s being done about it?

There’s been talk about the need to become a republic. But what we really need if we’re to progress is politicians who are accountable to the public, and decisions motivated by the national good.

We need governments to be duty-bound to explain how prime agricultural lands can be approved for development while permission is denied for developing marginal lands.

We need freedom of information so the public can see how their taxes are being spent. The ‘Freedom of Information Act’ and the move to improve Government’s accountability of its spending seem to have met an early demise. Furthermore, we need investigative journalism to proceed without fear of retaliation.

Instead, we were treated recently to two serious infringements of our right to information – the Cahill waste- to-energy project and the state-of-the-art sugar factory where decisions seem to have been made by a few “behind closed doors”. We mustn’t let our concerns be silenced.

Going forward, we need government contracts which are public and awarded by tender to those who are most qualified, rather than those with the best connections. We need due diligence done by unbiased, reputable organisations.

Finally, a word to the Opposition. We commend you for bringing important facts to the fore. But remember, we don’t want a situation where a change of government only means that the “favoured” and the “alienate” just switch places.

In short, we want our Barbados back and making us a republic won’t do the job. Just look at Trinidad.

Dr Frances Chandler is a former independent senator. Email: [email protected]