Posted on

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Business leadership myth

Tennyson Joseph, [email protected]

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Business leadership myth

Social Share

IT IS WORRISOME that a proposed new party in Barbados has been justifying its existence on the basis that the experience of managing one’s private business makes the employer class “best fit to govern”.

In a response to an article in which I expressed my perspective on the emergence of the new party, I received an emailed response from the new grouping’s leading spokesperson which stated the following:

“Barbados has generally been managed by single professionals who have, by any reasonable measure, generally mismanaged the public services and the national economy with popular, but unsustainable ideas. The main problem appears to be one of individual preparation. The successful candidates were simply not properly prepared to manage, and therefore, not capable of managing our national economy. Who then are the most prepared and capable persons to manage a national economy? We believe that a good preparatory path is for those who were once employees themselves, to risk starting a business to develop a product . . . . What special skills do employers have to prepare them to manage a national economy?. Starting and growing a business appears to be the ideal training ground for managing a national economy.”

This is not surprising. This myth of the “specialness” of businessmen as those who “know how the economy works”, and the assumption that running “government is like running a business”, are the shocking byproducts of neo-liberal ideology which has dominated the discourse of Caribbean intellectually-dependent opinion shapers in recent times.

Significantly, a leading Barbadian retired academic, Dr George Belle, has had to remind us that “Barbados has always been run by businessmen”. Indeed, the old representative system was the classic case of the society run by businessmen for businessmen, when plantation owners went into Parliament and made laws to suit themselves.

The existing system is made for the economically dominant group. No wonder, the more powerful sections of the business class have publicly turned down the invitation to “join the new party”. They prefer to govern without the responsibility of governing. It is only the intellectually and economically junior sections of the business class who believe their own neo-liberal propaganda and aspire to govern directly. Trump, in the United States, Chastanet, in St Lucia, and a third party in Barbados will soon expose the myth that businessmen make the best governors. The empowered people will reject the lie.

The response to the present crisis is not a government of businessmen. This will add fuel to fire. What is required is a democratically crafted consensus on a public policy that ensures economic growth but places the majority of the population at the centre of any definition of development. Our business classes, who have always been the main beneficiaries of our political arrangements since the arrival of Columbus, are the least equipped to lead such a process.

Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]