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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Beyond 50


DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Beyond 50

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WELL TODAY CLIMAXES our year-long golden Independence anniversary celebrations. Now all the euphoria is over, there’s no point crying over spilt milk (or perhaps spilt millions is more appropriate). We now have to buckle down and work together to rebuild Barbados to its former glory.

Although many feel this administration is solely responsible for the dire position we’re in, the fact is that Barbadians, encouraged by successive administrations, have become more and more reliant on Government for their every need.

We must insist that Government does its part, but every citizen has to accept some responsibility for themselves and the space they occupy. As the Prime Minister said a while ago, entitlement will be replaced by responsibility in the next 50 years.

We have to demonstrate patriotism not only through flags and bunting, but such virtues as integrity, honest work and caring for our environment and our fellow man.

First, we must get our priorities right; something which Barbadians seem to have great difficulty in doing. In our personal lives, lack of discipline and prioritisation can lead to financial ruin. As Louise Fairsave, personal financial management adviser stresses: “Without an overall personal strategy to contain spending within one’s earning means, a person will be on the road to financial ruin…wise spendingis disciplined spending.”

Sadly, Government hasn’t been a good example in this regard. Its expenditure continues to exceed its revenue, resulting in our huge fiscal deficit, yet it continues to live above its means. As economist Charlie Skeete recently stated: “Barbados’ large appetite for consumption and Government’s unwillingness to demonstrate fiscal discipline will come back to haunt the island.” I think it already has.

Apart from excessive spending on the Independence celebrations, how could a lavish Water Authority headquarters, a Sanitation Service Authority headquarters (which remains half-built), hosting a diaspora conference, flying here, there and everywhere first class (the benefits of which are difficult to see) be priorities when our road, water supply, health, sanitation, transport and judicial systems are literally crumbling?

We continue to hear rumblings about becoming a republic as well as legalisation of marijuana and same-sex marriages. How could these possibly be priorities over the essentials listed above? Let’s not get caught up in these distractions. As Adrian Green would say “Get Real”.

Over the last few years, people from all walks of life, including two past Prime Ministers and the Auditor General, have offered suggestions/solutions to our many problems. Recently, Roy Morris, Editor-in-chief of the Nation even offered a space in his weekly column where the general public could propose suggestions to cure some of the ills we encounter daily. But it seems to me that our suggestions merely serve to make Government “dig in its heels” and continue on its path to destruction.

In going forward, we have to support the progress of all sectors and not sacrifice one for the good of another. As Sir Henry Forde noted in a recent Nation interview: “We can do a lot in agriculture to bring it in line with our tourism development….”

The need to improve the ease of doing business has been emphasised by the president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noting that when Government policy is unclear and rapidly changing, when business facilitation is hampered and not encouraged, business performs poorly.

This talk about business facilitation continues like a recurring decimal. Minister of Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss has been talking about it since 2013 when a business facilitation unit was to have been set up, but we’ve seen little or no progress. In fact, the minister stated earlier this year “business facilitation seems like an elusive dream in our economy today”.

An attorney told me recently that all the bureaucratic delays encountered in setting up businesses have caused many a potential investor to give up and go elsewhere with their projects, leaving lawyers working on the documents owed large sums.

In fact, it seems as if you even have difficulty volunteering your services these days. And didn’t we hear some time ago that a wealthy philanthropist who had sponsored a very worthwhile national project was frustrated by a Government minister into withdrawing his sponsorship? We’re suffering the consequences now. And he’s only one of many.

So let’s join hands as we did on yesterday and try tomake sure that we can report some progress by next Independence Day.

• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email: [email protected]

 

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