IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: It’s not about Mark Maloney
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN in a discussion, conversation, argument – whatever – and someone screamed at you in annoyance: “Man, pick a side, nuh!”
Over the years I have discovered that is seldom my problem. Instead, I appear to have this unique ability to be opposed and hated by all sides.
I would write a story and someone would decide I’m a Bee. Another person looks at the same story and calls me a Dem. But when I find myself in the camp of either party, neither sees me as someone to be welcomed.
I take a position on some matter and from the “white people” I hear I am anti-white. The next day I report on something else and people want to know what kind of black man I could be. It seems I can never win – so why trouble nature? Here I go again.
Businessman Mark Maloney has been in the news more times in recent weeks than he would have wished; of that I am absolutely sure. And while he might not want to hear it, I am of the view that much of it he has invited on himself.
Mark Maloney is not my friend. He is not my enemy, but he certainly is not my friend. From my few experiences with him I have concluded that he can be at times a most difficult person with whom to deal.
When his head gets hot, and I base this on personal experience, reason appears to vanish and rational conversation becomes as difficult as swimming at Bathsheba in rough seas.
So it is not hard to understand why to many people he is currently public enemy No. 1. Rock Hard Cement; fights with the chief town planner over construction near the Flour Mill at Spring Garden; a dispute with Barbados Port Inc. over the same project; dispute with the Ministry of Transport and Works over roadworks on the ABC Highway at the entrance to the Villages At Coverley; a fight with authorities over the operation of a gas station at Coverley, and the latest, a dispute over construction at Bushy Park.
Under the circumstances, it would not be a stretch to ask in the same fashion as Mighty Gabby: “Who does Mark Maloney think he is?”
But when you look at all these disputes as a single issue, with genuinely enquiring thought, you can’t help but get the impression this is not really about Mark Maloney. This is about the way we do business, particularly public business, in Barbados.
Just as common as Maloney to all these matters is the Town and Country Planning Development Office.
But again, this is not really about Town Planning, it’s about the way we conduct public business in Barbados.
Above the law
No one should be allowed to feel that he or she is above the law, and when they do step out of line, they must understand and accept that the consequences of their actions must be borne by them. But we cannot operate Government in a way that makes legitimate people feel as though they are being provoked into making unlawful decisions.
All the planning issues about which Maloney has complained, rightly or wrongly, have been made by others long before he hit the headlines. And these planning complaints don’t only relate to the town planning office.
It appears that for all the fine reputation we have built since Independence, many of our neighbours have long overtaken us when it comes to ease of doing business.
No one, local or foreign, should believe that because they have money and/or a good idea, the country is obligated to entertain them and grant whatever permission they request. However, we have to question our own efficiency when an entity submits a legitimate proposal to some Government agency and two, three or four years later, it is still awaiting a response.
Even worse is when it waits that length of time and is then turned down.
Granted, reviewing every application will not be a simple exercise, but if a project proposal is flawed, does not conform to the law, does not fit into the programme of the administration or there is some other factor that makes those who have to give it the green light uneasy, why would it take four or five years to say no?
Are we incompetent? Are we drunk with our own power? Are we just inefficient? Do we believe we are so special that everyone so badly wants to do business here that they will stick around no matter how we frustrate them?
Yes, we have had some rather obnoxious people come here thinking they are God’s gift to Barbados, so how dare we even ask a question about their proposal. But it seems that whether it is building permission, environmental permission, an offshore venture that needs the assent of some regulatory agency, the granting of some financial or other concession, and the list goes on, they just have to wait and wait and wait and . . . .
We may have a single project that requires multiple permissions from various Government agencies and we have not yet figured out how to treat them as a package. Instead, an entrepreneur can make the rounds for years waiting for each to act separately and independently – while praying fervently that the file does not end up in one of those notorious desk or filing cabinets where things go in and never come back out.
It is time for people who do business in Barbados and are being frustrated to speak in one voice. It is time for umbrella agencies like the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry to go public with a level of vigour that truly represents the extent of the problem.
It is time for all those respected Barbadian businesspeople who have been suffering in silence to speak publicly and stop telling me their stories on the condition that I say nothing because they are afraid to be victimised.
Newsflash: How does being victimised differ from having your plans sit in a Government office for five years catching dust? In my mind, the end result is the same – you can’t do business.
This is a side of Barbados about which we should all be ashamed. It’s not about colour, class, family name or country of origin. It’s about a way of business that is erasing decades of gain and creating an environment for our children that offers far less promise than our generation started with.