Are we progressing backwards?
History relates that the 30th President of the United States of America, Calvin Coolidge, was so lazy that he worked four hours per day during his tenure, slept 11 hours at night and took a few naps during the day. The 1920s economic boom, many historians write, occurred in spite of him. When he died after leaving office, someone reportedly quipped: “But how can you tell?”
Then there is the case of Leonardo da Vinci, who history reveals was a notorious procrastinator and took all of 16 years to complete his most notable work, the Mona Lisa. The great man reportedly left behind him more unfinished sketches than what he actually completed. For all his greatness, the artistic world might now be poorer for da Vinci’s lack of true enterprise.
Our past is replete with examples of great things being achieved even in the face of laziness and procrastination. Often greatness is occasioned because of the dynamism of existing social mechanics, and the efforts of others, who, though not in leadership positions, promote and propel progress through their amazing energies.
Barbados has achieved much in its pre-and-post colonial history. But there is always this lingering feeling that so much more could have been achieved, especially over the past 50 years with less procrastination, less talk, less graft and definitely greater enterprise.
This week President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry Eddie Abed bemoaned the fact that there were too many man-made obstacles in the island that hindered the facilitation of legitimate business. He suggested that to stimulate the economy everything should be done to encourage business and investments. Instead, a situation exists where such is often frustrated, whether by taxation, or a wide swathe of frequently overlapping regulations and restrictions. But that is not the major bugbear.
Mr Abed, Mr Ralph Bizzy Williams, Mr Mark Maloney, Sir Charles Williams, Mr Mohammad Nassar, Mr Andrew Bynoe, and others, have previously articulated the problems associated with doing business in Barbados. Somehow, no one in officialdom seems capable, able or willing to stop talking and do something about it.
Under late Prime Minister Tom Adams’ administration, the then Minister of Trade Bernard St John had complained about the hindrances to doing business here. Under late Prime Minister Errol Barrow, one can recall the price control wars between Sir David Seale and then Minister of Trade Branford Taitt. We have had complaints from former Government minister Mr Evelyn Greaves; complaints from former political stalwart Sir Louis Tull; complaints from former MP Mr Reginald Farley; complaints from Minister of Commerce, International Business and Small Business Development Donville Inniss; complaints from every ministerial and business Tom, Dick and Harry imaginable spanning four or more decades.
Yet, in 2016, we find Mr Abed complaining for an age-old problem.
Who are the lazy procrastinators with the authority to engender change that, like Mr Coolidge, have sat for years in our Parliament peering through windows while counting cars and anticipating lunch? We have achieved much but development has been stymied by this inertia.
We listen to apologists and illusionists within the Ministry of Water Resource Management and the Barbados Water Authority, as well as those within the Ministry of the Environment and we wonder if like Rip Van Winkle, they have suddenly stirred from some deep slumber. Have they suddenly discovered that Barbados has been designated a water scarce country? Has it now dawned on them that human beings actually generate waste and systems must be in place to collect it? Are they aware of the health issues that can arise from the failure to do so?
The point is – doesn’t anyone plan for anything anymore in Barbados? Whether it is the facilitation of waste removal or water preservation and retention. Must we always be caught sleeping at the wheel only to find an erudite-sounding explanation and excuse for the crash? Or worse yet, ponder over the obvious reasons for that inevitable crash.
As we approach November 30, the circumstances of our present existence should not mirror that of our grandparents and great grandparents when they were in their days of yore. We should not have a situation where in discussing Barbados’ development with our elderly, they are moved to quip: “But how can you tell?”