“Developing our public sector”

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I believe that the public sector is the key for growth of Barbados in the future. As a developing society, we continue to be very dependent on the wide array of Government services and regulation. 

At the moment, there are several significant problems that prevent adequate performance in this area.

The first is that most of these entities are badly managed. The old control and command philosophy, a relic from our past, continues to be the norm. We do not set objectives, we keep very little information and we do not hold our managers accountable. We need to change this, starting at the top, where we recognise performance ahead of status and entitlement.

The second issue, which is very much connected to the first, is that we have developed a dependency syndrome where we believe the Government must provide for all. We see this at both the business level, as well as the individual level. We need to wean those better off from taking away from those who really are in need.

The other issue is that we treat our public sector as second class citizens. We need to raise our expectations and provide the resources to enable this vital sector to perform well. We can do this. We have capable people who are well educated. What we need is good management to make it happen.

None of this will happen without strong political leadership and commitment. Changing human behaviour is not an easy activity, and it is more acute in a small society where personal connections are strong. However, we will be our own worst enemy if we continue to avoid managing our national performance and productivity.

The challenges above also apply to our private sector and it is a factor, in my opinion, why many of our local businesses have been acquired by foreign interests. We are simply not managing our organisations and resources effectively.

We need a national focus on performance and we need it to be centred on our senior management. Initially there is bound to be a “blame game” as managers, rightly and wrongly, point fingers at the unnecessary hurdles they have to jump through. We must expose our weaknesses before we can fix them.

It will take time and will require more than one political term to see any significant results. Leadership is critical and it cannot be a slogan that starts at the top but gets managed at a lower level. It will also require significant skill to manage the potential conflict that arises when change is being implemented.

Where do we start? Establish what each public entity is supposed to do and publish their achievements. The next step becomes more difficult – what do we do with management if they do not deliver?

– CHRIS DE CAIRES