Thumbs up for new format
By Barry Alleyne [email protected] @Barry_nationbb
It’s all about transparency.
That’s the consensus regarding Government’s new question and answer format which was introduced last week for the 2019 Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure debate in the House of Assembly.
Political scientist Peter Wickham, who endorsed the format when it was announced, is satisfied the new way is a correct one.
“I see it as an example of transparent and inclusive governance which provides an unprecedented opportunity for representatives to conduct the people’s business and ask questions that the people would want asked of public servants in the full gaze of the public, which can never be a bad thing,” he told the Sunday Sun in a recent interview.
He also had a word for those who found issues with the new paradigm.
“There have been many positive things said about the move and it is therefore prudent to address the two main criticisms which are the fact that the public debate is a rehash of the conversation that takes place at the level of the ministry when preparing the Estimates, and secondly the argument that it asks MPs to take positions that are in opposition to their Cabinet position.
“Frankly, I think both of these criticisms are contrived in an effort to gain political mileage, and this is unfortunate,” Wichkam argued.
He said the public is not included in Estimates discussions within ministries so it is fortunate Barbadians could be privy to these conversations so they could get a better understanding of why things that should be happening are not happening or are not happening quickly enough.
New president of the Barbados Economic Society (BES), Simon Naitram, said his entity’s stakeholders would be paying more attention to the financial aspects of the Estimates, and not so much to the new format.
Former BES president Jeremy Stephen said his interest would be more in the numbers context of the process, but he did add that the new format served a purpose in allowing all Barbadians to see how the system works. “I essentially support any move towards a more accountable and transparent parliamentary Estimates debate,” he said in a brief comment.
According to Wickham, it is important to understand that MPs are constituency representatives first and foremost and as such would have a legitimate right to raise concerns with their colleagues in their ministerial capacity, along with senior public servants regarding the manner in which services are delivered to their constituents.
He also believes the system should have been introduced a long time ago.
“It is ironic that it has taken the most lopsided of Parliamentary arrangements to facilitate this level of transparency but I am nonetheless thrilled that we are moving in this direction, which is consistent with the approach taken to consultation on the Integrity in Public Life Act. These are both refreshing and I hope will be part of the new ethos in Government,” he concluded.
Peter Wickham. (FP)
Simon Naitram. (FP)
Former BES president
Jeremy Stephen. (FP)