EDITORIAL: Postal Service must adapt in tech era
CAN THE POSTAL SERVICE in Barbados survive the next decade as it is today?
This is not a question only for those intimately connected with this public sector service, but indeed the wider public. Looking on from the outside and without the detailed knowledge of either its revenues or expenditures, it is difficult to come to a determination based purely on its balance sheets.
The Postal Service has been much more than a provider of economic services and has served the common good of most Barbadians. It has been a vital link between people, whether intra-island, or internationally with relatives and friends overseas.
It has also provided a key service for both Government and commerce. Over time there has been a sentimental link as much as a social and economic connection.
But the advent of the Internet, the use of electronic transfers and rising competition from private courier providers have all inflicted serious blows to the post office network. As Barbadians – businesses and individuals – become even savvier with the technology, there will be even greater migration from what the post office now offers. It cannot continue in its current format.
While the Postal Service has always been there as an important plank among Government’s national institutions, the reality is that the delivery of letters is in the decline and even that of bills, which now form an important part of the department’s business, will also record a dramatic drop sooner rather than later as more businesses migrate to online avenues. Snail mail will give way to instant access, allowing for greater convenience and better time management.
As revenue falls, the Postal Service will have little flexibility to cut its costs, and raising the price of stamps to reflect their true economic costs simply will not be acceptable. Expenditure will become an issue once the nature of letter delivery and the cost of labour are factored in.
The Barbados Postal Service clearly qualifies as one of those areas which should be reviewed by the Government special committee looking at the viability and operations of some departments and corporations.
The department must of necessity become nimble and innovative. This may mean a seven-day-a-week operation, with the ability to provide overnight services. It should also undertake realistic projections of its viability over the next decade as it responds to current and future needs.
Radical reforms will likely be required, otherwise the service will have to be heavily subsidised by taxpayers at a time when schools, hospitals and roads are in desperate need of funding.
The one certainty is that something has to give. Government must have an unambiguous answer.