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Countering the professor


MICHAEL RAY

Countering the professor

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THE WEEKEND NATION of Friday, August 18, 2017, published an article that included comments made by Professor Michael Howard.

Obviously the present group of union leaders are well qualified to respond and defend themselves if there is need to so do.

However, as a citizen, taxpayer and former member of the Barbados Workers’ Union, I would be grateful if you allow me to express a few counter-balancing views on what the goodly professor placed within the public domain.

The unions are being warned “to be careful how they pressure Government in the current impasse”. Professor Howard ought to know that public servants have not received a negotiated wage increment within the last nine years, and they are seeking either a reduction in the 400 per cent-increased National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), or a coping allowance to help buffer the increased cost of living over that period.

The professor should tell the public what quality and quantity of duty and care should have been attached to such a request after being reasonable, considerate, patient and sacrificial for such a long time.

“The unions should remember that they are experiencing a blessing in this critical scenario which allows the public servants to keep their jobs.”

In reality, some workers have been experiencing continuous blessings for the past 108 months, some for 624 months and others have been blessed by being jobless since 2008.

One of the saddest developments in our country is how the phrase “army of occupation” has been mis-contextualised, taken out of perspective, used, misused and abused by the whims and fancies of persons who should know better. Based on the description of public servants as an army of occupation, members of the political class behave as though they are doing them a special favour, rather than treating them as important cogs in the wheel of service and production.

As far as I am concerned, to speak about the NSRL and layoffs in the same breath and in the same sentence is like being diagnosed with a brain tumour and advancing a kidney transplant as a treatment option.

Sound and judicious policies and decisions impact positively on workers being able to hold on to their jobs rather than Government having to resort to draconian tax measures such as the NSRL.

Professor Howard also opined that while unions were highly relevant and respected by segments of the Barbadian society, their leaders should not carry around an inferiority complex on their shoulders.

No one can tell the professor what he actually sees through his spectacles, but researchers and writers of the psychology of inferiority complex have long arrived at some interesting conclusions.

According to Britannica.com, the term “inferiority complex” has lost much of its significance simply because of imprecise popular misuse. As an example, it is cited as an inappropriate facile explanation of any show of ambition by a person of less-than-average height.

Dr Alfred Adler, the Austrian psychotherapist and expert in “inferiority complex”, theorised that as seen by some psychologists and psychiatrists as a disease, it is actually a stimulant to healthy normal striving and development.

In relation to the country’s tax base and tax collections, for the professor to say that they were not large enough to sustain a high level of Government’s welfare is a poor excuse and cop-out.

In the first instance, the department of Inland Revenue has a responsibility to see that all working Barbadians, self-employed or otherwise, pay their fair share of taxes. It can no longer be “Peter pays for Paul and Paul pays for all”.

Secondly, we can no longer exist on handouts, largesse and “pork-barrel” politics.

Barbadians who can afford to pay for their education, health care and other social amenities should pay. Those at the bottom of the economic ladder, who by way of means tests cannot afford, can be assisted by the state.

It is [conflicting] for Professor Howard to claim that the country’s tax base and tax collections were not large enough to sustain Government’s attempt to provide a high level of social welfare for the population, which included service of health, education and sanitation, and to say that “this forced Government to borrow from the Central Bank of Barbados”.

There needs to be some clarity if Government was forced or made the decision to borrow from the Central Bank. Government previously opted to borrow from the National Insurance Scheme, local and regional banks.

May I say in conclusion that there is a silence about the efficacy or lack thereof in deficit financing as has been practised in Barbados for the past 50 years. This is at the core of our country’s financial problems.

– MICHAEL RAY

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