Wanted: Leadership

competivenesssurvey2013Barbados is lacking leadership and direction.

That’s the view of a group of the country’s leading entrepreneurs, business owners and managers, public sector employees and academics, who say they have no confidence “that the appropriate actions are being taken expeditiously to correct the economic malaise and sense of drift”.

This emerged in a new Barbados Competitiveness Survey, conducted last month and the findings released today by BusinessBarbados.com, and government is being advised to consider seeking “advice” from the International Monetary Fund to help it come up with a “home grown” solution.

Most of the suggested actions recommended by survey respondents related to strategic planning and leadership, governance and transparency in decision making, accountability of management, reducing Government expenditure, reforming the Public Sector to meet modern economic demands, improving very weak business facilitation practices, implementing pay-for-productivity systems, improving customer service attitudes, lowering taxation and knock-on costs of doing business, removal of antiquated trade.

“Some may be tempted to say that anyone who dares to suggest we are incapable of managing our own affairs and should therefore call in the IMF, is unpatriotic,” the report said.

“The truth of the matter is that we are in deep trouble, facing the prospect of catastrophic economic failure, with attendant dire social consequences, and in such fraught circumstances it would be unpatriotic to deny the depth of our several national crises and to persist in maintaining the fiction that we have the capacity to sort it all out ourselves, without external assistance.

“This is truly a moment of truth for Barbados. People who hold leadership positions will do the people a great disservice if they fail to accept the scale of the crisis we face as a nation and ‘kick the can down the road’ in the vain hope that things will come right without painful adjustment,” it added. The study said Barbados urgently needed “political leaders who have the instincts of statesmen, meaning they are more interested in the next generation than in the next election”.

“As a first step they should invite the IMF to provide advice on the creation of ‘internal’ home grown structures that would be adequate, with their support, to tackle the massive programme of political and administrative reform and the wider challenges of restoring the international competitiveness of Barbados, which is the key to future economic and social prosperity,” it advised.

Specific “major concerns” mentioned by those surveyed included “high taxation (leading to high costs) and very poor business facilitation in Government departments, in addition to “the deteriorating performance of the legal justice system”.

In terms of goods market efficiency, the report said “taxation policy and Government’s financial management of revenue and expenditure are the greatest concerns”. Respondents also had “deep concerns about productivity, poor customer service and the growing costs of employment protection legislation and restrictive labour practices that drive up costs and create a barrier to employment generation”.

Reacting to the findings, BusinessBarbados.com Co-Founder Peter Boos said to “get beyond just another report to add to the existing pile, Barbados must put in place a new structure with external help to implement the urgent structural changes.”

“We are urging the political, business, labour and other leaders to come together urgently to agree on the National Implementation Mechanism to manage the changes we need,” he said.

“We must all work hard to support our Government and all the social partners and key stakeholders in getting the needed changes implemented. It is a tough challenge but if we lend support to a bi-partisan effort much can be achieved quickly.

“Is is not a time for blame (we are all responsible), its more a time for leadership, integrity and effective action. It is certainly a situation where we need all hands on deck,” he added. (SC)

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