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WHAT MATTERS MOST: Change creating conflict

DR CLYDE MASCOLL, [email protected]

WHAT MATTERS MOST: Change creating conflict

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THERE ARE several of us who share something in common with  post-Independence Barbados; we are too young to be old and too old to be young. It gives us a perspective that balances the lessons of the past with the concerns of the future. More importantly, it allows us to evaluate change and to respect that though change may not always be for the better, it is inevitable.

On the issue of change, George Beckford observed that “the precondition of all preconditions for change and transformation is a restructuring of the minds of the people to accommodate change. Once this is accomplished, all other things will develop”.

The mind must accommodate new ways of doing old things. It must open to new ways of utilising old things and new ways of transforming old things. No mature society can use age or gender to deny talent and competence.

The greatest challenge in accepting change is therefore in opening up our minds to understand that we can transform our lives in utilising what we have differently, by doing things in new ways. There are ways to evaluate whether or not the change is for the better. The evaluation does not guarantee that the results will be what we expected or preferred.

The conflict in change comes when the need for change is resisted by a minority, whose rewards and/or resources far outstrip their efforts and so for them, the status quo is ideal. There is a sense in which such conflict becomes self-evident long before it occurs.

Last week, it was noted that the British left us with a few things that have made some significant differences to our lives that are in need of reform: the legal system, the parliamentary system and the Civil Service. It was also noted that the Civil Service is being identified as the major source of the economic problem confronting the country. This constitutes change in which conflict is self-evident long before it occurs.

After 50 years of mostly mature self-government, it is noteworthy that there is little or no expression of confidence in the self-worth of the civil servants. Is it an example of not learning from the lessons of the past? Not too long ago, the Government boasted of sending home about 3 000 civil servants and yet they remain the major problem in the economy.

Over the course of the last seven years, the two economic sectors that have grown are the Government and financial services. Given that thousands fewer civil servants are employed, it should mean that fewer workers in Government are producing more. This means that Government workers are more productive.

Has there been any restructuring of the minds of the civil servants to allow them to accommodate change? Are the civil servants the ones who increased the numbers in the first place? So how come the civil servants have become so targeted in recent times? The answers to these questions will help us to understand why conflict is self-evident long before it occurs.

The restructuring in the Civil Service has more to do with using technological advancement to boost worker productivity than it has to do with utilising old ways to achieve new outcomes. For example, the reconstruction of the revenue collecting agencies was conceived on the premise that the use of information technology systems would have enhanced the country’s capacity to collect taxes and enforce compliance. Such change starts in the mind as workers are retrained and reconditioned to their new roles in partnership with the technology.

The proposed sending home of several staff members at the Central Bank that has apparently been aborted is another example of the restructuring of the mind before change can be accommodated.

This change is even more capable of creating conflict because of the bank’s history of making profit. Can the Central Bank staff be accused of being less productive because the institution is making losses? If the bank is making losses, whose responsibility is it? The answers to these questions will help to understand why conflict is self-evident long before it occurs.

Apart from identifying a downturn in the international economy following the financial crisis of the 2008/2009, there is compelling evidence to show that domestic policy initiatives, designed to protect the Government’s fiscal condition, pushed the bank into a greater loss-making position.

There are some of us who use our age to resist change and gender to suggest why change should not occur. In both cases, there is an odour of self-righteousness.

Dr Clyde Mascoll is an economist and Opposition Barbados Labour Party adviser on the economy. Email: [email protected]