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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: New approach for 2017

DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: New approach for 2017

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AS THE NEW YEAR APPROACHES, we must demand a new approach to our country’s governance – and I don’t mean becoming a republic.

I mean practical common-sense approaches to problems like not letting things reach crisis proportions before taking action. As John F. Kennedy noted “there are risks and costs to action . . . but they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction”.

I recently received this anonymous comment via email. I couldn’t summarise our position better myself, so I’m reproducing it here: “It is a surreal experience to sit in the theatre that is presently Barbados and witness an island in free fall.

Never in our history have we been so rudderlessly adrift. Never before have we experienced such a retreat of the voices of conscience who would at one time be a constant reminder that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance and that the voice of the people is a force that changes the world.

Never have our leaders treated us with the disdain of non-communication presently visited upon us. Never have we been victims of the slow-response, no-response syndrome – a frozen judiciary – an ill-managed garbage collection system, and a landscape littered with completed but unoccupied houses that attract security services to the tune of $10 000 per month.

Cavorting across the stage before us are individuals who bear the title of minister and are remunerated as such, but who trot out excuse after excuse why they should not be blamed for presiding over a series of historic failures at every level. Running out of natural gas in the peak Christmas season must rank among those that most deserve a rolling head.

Roads full of potholes are blamed on poor quality asphalt . . . notwithstanding the yard filled with disabled machinery, lying there for months.

While most of the island is well supplied with water, the chronic outage in other parts is blamed on too little rainfall.

As the south coast swims in sewage the excuse is heavy rainfall, even though the effluent was present before the recent deluge.

Thousands of gallons of water escaping from burst mains are deemed not to be water lost, because “it all goes back into the ground anyway”.

Then there is a ministry of finance that has been in an experimental mode for the past eight years, refusing to heed the voices of the wiser and more experienced, but rather to go on a flight of fancy with several failed strategies – short, medium and long term.

At the pinnacle of the debacle sits the Silent One, who dares not speak for fear of inspiring panic among the passengers. He prefers instead to kick the can down the road with $600 000 enquiries and tribunals of comparably expensive and time-consuming practice.

A nation that was once a shining light in the region and accustomed to punching above its weight now finds itself weighed down by an ineffectual, incompetent assortment of excuses.

As with most things in life, this too shall pass but what will this man-made disaster leave in its wake? Only time will tell.”

But thank goodness for the Opposition. If it weren’t for them, we mightn’t have discovered, among other things, that the South Coast sewerage pumps haven’t worked for years. How can something so critical to our health be allowed to deteriorate while we fritter away money on Independence celebrations? Celebrate, yes, but not to the extent that we did when we can’t afford it. But it’s not only the pumps. In every Government department, it seems that only half or less of the equipment is working. And no one is held accountable.

Minister Inniss, in his increasingly frequent outbursts, says the right things, but we can only take him seriously when he reports publicly on the result of the investigation into the alleged illegal importation of chicken wings. Otherwise, it’s only political grandstanding. And we’ve had enough of that.

Going forward, we need to systematically solve the problems in all sectors, and support all of them, including agriculture and the sugar cane industry. But that’s a topic for another time.

We must have a say in our country’s affairs. So, in the new year let’s all make a firm resolution not to be anonymous, but to speak out boldly and confidently on what we expect from our leadership.

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