We need good governance, says Bizzy
Prominent businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams is calling for politicians and others responsible for bad governance in Barbados to be punished.
Williams, founder of Williams Industries Inc., made the call last night, while suggesting that bad governance, rather than the global recession, was responsible for most of the economic problems facing the country.
Speaking at the annual First Citizens Investment Services Market Outlook Panel Discussion at Frank Collymore Hall on Thursday night, Williams charged that both Government and Barbadians did not understand “the fundamentals of good economic governance”.
“For example, every time a Bajan buys an unnecessary imported item, that Bajan assists a foreign land. We don’t seem to understand that we don’t need to import bottled water when the water in Barbados is the best in the Caribbean. We import all sorts of luxuries that are unnecessary, draining our foreign exchange,” said Williams.
“My own feeling is that once we establish a sound fundamental system of good governance that is clearly articulated to the general population and enforced without favour or prejudice, our country will prosper,” he added.
The outspoken businessman said the apparent failure by some residents to adhere to the rule of the law was also putting off many overseas investors.
“When they discover that the law courts try cases that could take years to deliver a judgment and when the judgment is delivered it is ignored, that would make any investor anywhere in the world nervous about putting their money and investing in that country. These are the things that I see are affecting the Barbados economy,” he said.
“Even Barbadians looking around and they are not believing what they are hearing simply because of the track record of those who are speaking. When you go and tell people you are going to do this and then you do something different, people lose credibility and confidence in what you are saying.
“And when your leadership is not believable and they don’t operate with the kind of integrity that you expect, you have problems and that is the thing I believe we are facing here . . . .”
Williams added: “I believe there are a few fundamentals that need putting in place in Barbados that I believe will strengthen people’s belief in this country. The first one is election campaign finance. No politician should have to come to somebody like me to ask for assistance to finance an election campaign, because I might ask him in return to do me a special favour if he gets elected. I am talking about private companies, public companies and individuals. I believe very strongly that the state should finance election campaigns for the political parties, and they should provide enough finance to articulate their plans for the future of the country very clearly to the population.”
The influential business owner is also recommending wide-ranging reforms to change the governance system in Barbados, especially in light of allegations of vote buying that dogged the last general election.
“People who break the rules should be severely punished . . . . Vote buying should be punishable by imprisonment and disqualification from holding public office in Barbados for life,” said Williams, to thunderous applause.
He suggested that individuals who sought to bribe politicians should be given prison sentences while crop and animal thieves be severely punished.
“We have to get serious about governing this country. We cannot allow a lackadaisical approach to enforcing the law,” said Williams, who went on to criticize companies that don’t pay over statutory deductions of their employees.
“Those people should be severely punished and if they don’t pay the fines they should be deprived of some of their assets. We cannot continue to allow this foolishness to go on. I hear the Minister of Finance saying there is so much money owed to the Government. Who owes them the money? Let’s see a list in the newspapers. Another thing, public servants and private people should be held responsible for their productivity and output,” added Williams.