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No, but seriously

This week I decided to file my VAT return early rather than doing the usual and catching myself rushing the day before it is due. I tried several times to log onto the website but I was unsuccessful; I kept getting a message saying that the website could not be found.

Eventually I called the VAT department and was told that the website was down and that I would have to come in and get a form to file my return i.e. the old way. I really wasn’t looking forward to driving to Roebuck Street or Warrens at that particular time, then to come back and complete it and then take it back down to file it.

Fortunately I found and old form in my VAT files and photocopied it in colour and completed it. I didn’t have any of the white forms (I think they were remittance advice forms) but I sent in my cheque anyway and I hope that there is no problem with my return because of that.

I’m not sure how long the website was down, it may have been just that day, but the fact that I was advised to come in and get a form suggests that it won’t be fixed too soon. Now I had assumed that the department made an announcement in the newspaper which I missed, but yesterday I got an e-mail from them saying that the department was experiencing technical problems with their website and that registrants would have to file the old way. Makes me wonder what sort of technical difficulties they’re having and if a team is working round the clock to get it fixed.

I don’t mean to keep picking on Government departments but I’m still truly amazed at some of the things I encounter. I know that communication between departments seems to be non-existent but when one agency doesn’t know what’s going on in the same agency because they are geographically separated I find that ridiculous, especially in this day of intranet and other communication methods.

This week I was also researching how to get an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) to create a paperback of my novel using Createspace on Amazon. Years ago when I was first trying to publish a book I remember getting one from the National Library Service so I called their office in Independence Square. I was told that Independence Square does not deal with that and I was given a number for the Culloden Farm office.

A very helpful lady informed me that they no longer deal with issuing ISBNs and she gave me the name and contact information of someone at the CARICOM secretariat who she said used to deal with it since they had taken over that role. No, but seriously – was there no communication between the two departments in the same agency? Or perhaps it was just a case of “I know about my area and don’t expect me to know about anything else”.

Now don’t think that I believe Government is not doing anything right. On the contrary we do a lot of things well in Barbados and we need to start thinking about exporting some of our knowledge. One example is the Textbook Loan scheme. While it is not unique to Barbados, it is a brilliant scheme that works pretty well to provide books for secondary school children.

This week I developed a newfound appreciation for the scheme. My daughter decided to take a CAPE subject privately and her lessons teacher gave her the name of a textbook that they use at school for the subject. I went into town to buy it and I almost had a coronary when I saw the price (Okay that was a slight exaggeration, but it was staggering). I could not believe that the book cost $103.99! Students (and parents) need to realise that paying $75 to rent these books for the year is nothing compared to the cost of having to buy them. Although $75 may still be a hardship for some people, the scheme really is a blessing.

Mind you it’s not perfect, but then nothing is. This is my son’s first year with the Textbook Scheme and he drew it to my attention that some of his books are older than he is! Now that may be a good thing, in that it means the school is getting good mileage out of the books, but on the other hand how dated is the information? Granted, an adjective will always be an adjective but surely the context in which these things are taught could be updated to make learning more interesting for the children. How different it would be to learn adverbs with sentences like “The car drove quickly through the streets.” versus “The song was quickly downloaded from the iTunes store”. (Everyone knows that the adverb is quickly, right?)

Herein lies the opportunity for some entrepreneurial teachers to use their knowledge to earn extra income by writing more up-to-date books and creating learning devices that are fun and use the current technology available. We’ve got to get to the place we are using our skills and abilities to generate revenue by working smarter and not harder, especially in light of the ease with which we can now get these products to market. We really have no excuse.

* Donna Every is a motivational speaker and trainer. She is the author of four books including her debut novel, The Merger Mogul.

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