FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: New Year’s (re)solutions
This week I want to pay tribute to my mother, who passed away last week. She had reached her 90th year in spite of doctors allegedly telling her mother when she was born weighing about four pounds that she should “put her down on the pillow and let her die”, showing that no matter how powerful we may think we are, we aren’t in charge.
Mummy was an outstanding entrepreneur, long before entrepreneurship became fashionable. She sewed our clothes, grew and sold vegetables and flowers, saving the proceeds to buy all my brother’s warm clothing and other necessities when he left for university in Canada.
My father died at 47, leaving her a 43-year-old widow. Bearing in mind his young age and the low salaries of that era, he had not amassed significant savings, but was forward thinking enough to have bought life insurance policies. She invested the proceeds wisely and also produced beautiful craft for sale to visitors. She lived carefully and bought only what she could afford without credit, so that when she became a senior citizen, she could live in comfort. Up to her death she was baking, sewing and gardening. In short, she demonstrated the pride and industry which older Barbadians are known for and which are lacking today.
Mummy could’ve taught Government a thing or two about budgeting, discipline, common sense, resourcefulness, industry and productivity, all of which are needed now more than ever as we enter the challenging year 2014. As Glen Beck, best-selling author, says, “It’s time to put principles above parties, character above campaign promises, and common sense above all”. In 1690 Governor James Kendall described Barbados as “the beauty-fullst spot of ground I ever saw”, and we must keep it that way. But we can’t if we keep running up unmanageable debt. Last year was “The Year Of Vacillation And Denial”. Let 2014 be “The Year Of Decision And Action” and turn our situation around.
The powers that be have made a good start by finally admitting that the public service is bloated, and have reportedly laid off 300 Drainage Unit workers. Hopefully they won’t be swayed by the unions not to complete the laying off, however painful it may seem.
Of course, both administrations are guilty of using jobs as election rewards resulting in this overloading of the public service. Instead of Government being the employer of first resort, it should be facilitating the private sector to increase employment.
These are some of my solutions for Government for 2014:
(1) Don’t build the new factory at Andrews; there are cheaper and simpler solutions.
(2) Don’t build a new hospital; experienced architects say the structure of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is sound and could be extended and upgraded without interrupting hospital activities. Instill in staff the meaning of emergency; increase the number of ambulances and maintain the present ones;
(3) Terminate Constituency Councils and sponsorship of sports tournaments and instead, assist community groups which have already initiated projects;
(4) Assist those already conducting summer camps rather than creating Government-run ones;
(5) Instead of building forex-guzzling edifices like the new Barbados Water Authority headquarters to create jobs, use funds to help bring land back into agriculture and reduce our food import bill;
(6) Promote agro-processing by assisting projects to add value to primary agricultural produce – like cassava chips for feed, cassava flour and goat cheese;
(7) Despite the fact that privatization became a bad word in the last election, privatize all Government entities that aren’t performing;
(7) Look into the housing programme, which although initially promising, is now looking like an unnecessary burden, with very few houses occupied and some dilapidated. Could it be that there’s too much steel in the buildings, making them prohibitively expensive?
As individuals, we should resolve to take responsibility for our lives and stop depending on Government. We must stop defacing public property, keep our own space clean and tidy, protect the environment, conserve resources, use more virtual offices, use local products over imported, provide excellent service to customers – local and foreign – and in short, retain Barbados’ status as “the beauty-fullst spot of ground”.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email [email protected]