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EDITORIAL: Dealing with an insensitive bureaucracy


EDITORIAL: Dealing with an insensitive bureaucracy

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THE FRUSTRATIONS ECHOED by residents of Enterprise, Christ Church, in not getting the Town Planning Department to respond to their correspondence about a proposed development should be of concern to all Barbadians. The anger they have outlined would not have been the first, second or third time the public has heard such complaints about a type of attitude that seems to border on contempt.

Unfortunately, it is not unique to the Town Planning Department. At the root of the problem is the lack of accountability in what has clearly become a symptomatic problem across Government. There is a lethargic approach to simple queries that has become a major turn-off.   

The fallout is perhaps best exemplified by how the country has slipped in the World Bank group ratings as a place to do business. The latest survey showed that Barbados has dropped to 119 out of 189 economies surveyed. No politician or trade unionist should disregard this situation, nor must they defend unacceptable behaviour by putting forward lame excuses. Arguing that the private sector is no better is not part of the solution. 

The growing dominance of the state systems by an apparently unaccountable bureaucracy is frightening, given that officialdom can decide the country’s future and the well-being of its people. Little wonder the growing chorus of “don’t blame me and I did not know” on the part of the political directorate amid the silence by the technocrats. In such circumstances, the public can only conclude that Government is being operated by grey eminence.

This raises the issue of who is in control.

The problem citizens Patrick Frost, Hamilton Hendy and Trevor Kent are encountering in relation to their concerns at Enterprise is of the kind of hurdles people encounter in Government departments that treat justified concerns as a bother. This is the challenge journalists encounter on a daily basis. There is gross denial of the public’s right to know. We are not talking of national security matters here, but simple facts. This will not change until there is a Freedom Of Information Act and even then there may be stumbling blocks.

This situation can erode trust in Government which is dangerous given how the state and all its agencies so impact our lives in fundamental ways. Something must be done and someone must be able to bring this situation under control.

Unfortunately, most Government employees may be unfairly compared and tainted given the actions of a few who have become accountable to no one. Barbados needs more rather than less transparency and this is why public officers must understand their important role. Silence is not always the golden rule.