COLUMN – Has our culture changed?
What is wrong across our nation? What is right in our dear country? Has our economic decline led to moral and social decline, or the decline of our social and moral standards created our economic decline?
A popular kaiso recently alluded to the existence of two Barbadoses . . . . Or is there just some secret network at play that determines who wins and who loses? Is this the Barbados we envisaged at the time of our Independence from the colonial Britain?
My questions to some may appear rhetorical; to others, sarcastic; and to a few, crazy; but if we took a careful look around what would we find?
1. The ongoing CLICO debacle. This month will mark six years since the corporate failure of CLICO’s regional and multinational operations and more importantly the devastation of numerous lives, especially those in the retirement bracket. Last month we heard of its inability to continue making monthly payments to pensioners and so on, and this week we hear of the judicial manager’s plan to go after a former executive and estate of a deceased politician to recover sums paid out from the company.
Within the sector regulations, and no doubt in law, there are procedures to deal with such failures. However, this process has been drawn out excessively and with very little detail or feedback, and with many promises of a resolution. The impact of ineffective regulation, governance and our seeming inability at speedy resolution in the interest of policyholders has and will lead to moral, social and further economic decline.
Likewise the belief in many quarters across the region of connections between political directorates and corporate executives further creates moral and social decline and political apathy that we can ill afford in our developing nations at this time.
2. Enforcement of police dress code. Our Police Force has been in the media quite a bit recently, and for all the wrong reasons. I note, however with interest, the response of officers to the proposed dress code as reported in the media, and again wonder what is occurring across our country. The dress code appears in no way significantly different from what obtained when I was in secondary school and in many workplaces.
As individuals I believe we all have rights, especially to be respected and to have our beliefs appreciated; however these have to be earned, and similar respect must be given to the organizations that we belong to, and the set of rules, policies and overall culture that ought to be maintained. Is this much ado about nothing? Or is the grievance about method of implementation?
Does the Barbados Defence Force or Coast Guard have a similar issue? By simple observation over time, I suggest not. Why is it in the new Barbados we demand our rights and expect that in return we have the liberty to do as we wish and flout all rules and good sense? I respect every officer on the force as their job is not one to envy and they deserve high praise –– but it critical that a suitable example be set by those charged with protecting and serving.
3. Political grandstanding and distractions. We have elected leaders across the political divide, as we do every five years, to sit in the Parliament, including the Upper Chamber, to guide the progress of our nation towards developed status, while improving the opportunity of citizens and businesses to evolve, grow and invest in our future.
There can be no doubt that the level of politics and leadership has declined since our formative years and it is manifest in the lack of urgency on national and developmental matters, in the spits and spats often initiated on issues we historically have countered without need for such. Change is ever constant and whether it is politically or otherwise, our dialogue should always commence with what we can do differently and where we have gone wrong.
The reasons for our moral, social and economic decline is not the IMF, S&P, or any other international or regional agency. What we need our politicians to do is lead our country, despite prevailing circumstances, to higher heights, and motivate a population to take part in this process. The ratings provided by international agencies is based on our performance for which we are responsible. Why not question the validity when the ratings are high?
4. Sagicor domicile. Yet another issue that has created a distraction and diversion from the real tasks at hand. As a corporate entity the board of directors is charged with the responsibility of guiding the corporate direction of the company. In these situations I always think it prudent to ask what the net effect of the decision will be if effected on the society and economy of Barbados. I can no see negative effect concerning where the company is domiciled, especially where its core business activities and scale remain untouched.
Objectively, I ask: Where are the majority of the operations of Goddards Enterprises located? What is the spread of its corporate locations and domiciles? How does Barbados benefit?
We expect international companies to make the right decision and domicile their companies or offices in Barbados to take advantage of beneficial conditions. So is it so bad for Sagicor to do likewise, even if it sees one aspect of its business domiciled elsewhere?
There remain many positives about our direction and I remain optimistic. However, there is an underlying spirit of negativity that occasions discussions and prevents further progress in this country at all levels. We built this country by our pride and industry and its time we return to the principles and approach that got us this far, rather than making excuses and taking a self-serving stance.
(David Simpson is managing director of Prestige Accounting Inc. and immediate past president of the Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of Barbados.)