New year, same list

For the past few weeks many Barbadians would have compiled and used grocery and gift lists to make their shopping easier.

Much of the resulting purchases of ham, turkey, various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, chocolates, cakes and bread have been consumed by now.

The perfumes, watches, books, games, toys, clothing and an assortment of other presents were wrapped and unwrapped, giving pleasure to those who gave and received.

For others, the new curtains were ironed and hung and the variety of Christmas trees decorated and adorned with twinkling lights.

External and internal walls received new coats of paint and church pews were filled with worshipers celebrating one of the most important days and seasons on the Christian calendar.

But with a mere three days left in the year, we cannot help but observe that in several major instances Government, and by extension the country’s, to-do list has largely remained the same since when last the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne were sung.

It is especially so for at least three of them which stand out prominently: the CLICO debacle, the administration of the Alexandra School, and the money owed to contractor Al Barrack.

After a year of assurances, promises, and appeals for patience these problems are still waiting to be solved as 2013 beckons.

There are members of the current Administration, and perhaps Prime Minister Freundel Stuart himself, who would swiftly seek to remind us and Barbadians generally, that they inherited these mammoth challenges.

We certainly agree that the challenges related to the management of Alexandra preceded this Government.

Likewise, the tens of millions of dollars owed to Barrack for work done on the Warrens Office Complex was also an unwelcome inheritance.

One would even concede that it was unlikely that the problems associated with CLICO suddenly started after 2008.

Be that as it may, it is no consolation for Barrack, the more than 30,000 policyholders in CLICO International Life Insurance, and the students, teachers, principal, parents, unions, old scholars and anyone associated with Alexandra that, contrary to promises that each of these matters would be resolved this year, they still are not.

In each instance the issues to be resolved are not straightforward, and in the case of Barrack and CLICO the challenge is made harder by the fact that both require substantial funds in a time of recession and fiscal crisis for Government.

CLICO’s impact is the most far reaching of the three, considering the vast number of Barbadians it has already hurt and will continue to do so until resolved. For the St. Peter learning institution money is less of a concern, but the continued negative fallout for the people involved, especially young children has been devastating.

As it currently stands, and given all that has to take place in terms of funding and administration, it is hardly likely that either CLICO or Alexandra will be totally resolved in 2012.

The Al Barrack matter, we submit, stands a better chance of success, but is also unlikely at this stage.

So what does 2013 hold for this troublesome trio, which has been a handful for the Stuart Administration over the past few years.

Government has clearly not won the public relations and communications battle in any of these matters.

Managing and concluding each of them would have been hampered by things outside of the Administration’s control, including the still worrying global economic environment.

By any fair assessment, however, government would also have to acknowledge that its public statements, or lack thereof, made uncertain situations even more so.

When there wasn’t uneasy silence there were unrealistic promises, including having major aspects of the CLICO matter resolved by June this year, having a swift resolution to the Alexandra matter when the new school year started in September, and the several pledges of “soon” and “shortly” related to the Barrack payment.

Whether one chooses to call it Government inaction or the “system” working as it usually does, the most important thing, and unfortunately so for all of the individuals affected, is that such important matters remain; “things to do”.

We are sure that with a general election looming there will be a massive, some would say last-ditched, effort to remedy these affairs. For the beneficiaries it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

But, as William Smokey Burke sang at Crop-Over last year, “de damage already done”.

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