The Buck Stops Here

New wineskins needed

I don’t know if you’re familiar with wineskins that were used in ancient times. There were made of the skin of an animal, like a goat, and used to hold grape juice which then fermented until it turned into wine. As the wine fermented it expanded and caused the skin to expand.

Once the wine was poured out, the skin dried up and became brittle and could not be used again otherwise when new wine was poured into it, it would cause the wineskin to stretch and burst since it would not be as pliable as a new wineskin. That’s why you shouldn’t pour new wine into old wineskins.

So what does this have to do with us today? Well this week I’ve been reading a lot in the press about the concerns for the Barbadian economy and the economies of the various countries in the world in general and what is coming across clearly to me is that we really have no solutions to the crisis we are in.

What is also clear is that we can’t go about business as usual; we need new wine i.e. new ideas, new visions, new strategies to survive and come out of this recession and move forward as a nation and a region. However before we can access the new wine, we need new wineskins, i.e. new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things.

I don’t want to come over as negative because I believe that there’s always hope, but when I look at some of the traditions and ways of doing things that we hold onto in Barbados without analysing them and seeing if they still make sense, I almost despair at the thought of how we will deal with what’s coming down the pipeline at us as a nation.

Let me start with a really basic and almost ridiculous example. As I went out and bought uniforms for my son last week it made me look at the tradition of our school uniforms. Our children go to school in a tropical climate with temperatures that can reach up to 30 degrees Celsius on a given day. Yet they are expected to wear to school enclosed shoes and socks that come just under their knees (in the case of the boys).

Where did that tradition come from, if not from our colonial past? It may make sense in England but does it really make sense for the conditions in Barbados? What a difference it would make if the children were allowed to wear sandals without socks. Has anyone thought to change that?

Then there’s the whole ceremony of the opening of the High Court. I’m not sure if they still do this but up until recently the High Court judges used to wear cloaks and wigs for the opening, but hopefully not while they were presiding. What exactly is the purpose of that, especially in a tropical climate? Although I suppose the new Supreme Court is well air-conditioned, but what does it really mean? Why are we still holding on to those traditions?

Then there’s the Westminster Parliamentary system of Government that we have inherited and slavishly adhered to, along with many countries of the Commonwealth (where is the common wealth anyway?). There is probably not a more divisive and ineffective system of government.

It takes the (supposedly) best leaders in the country and splits them between parties, rather than creating a system of government that brings together the best brains and the best leaders to take the country forward.

Even if the best brains end up in parliament (and that’s not always the case) have you ever seen an Opposition member (present and past) say that they agree with what the Government is proposing and that it’s a great idea?

So if we’re content to do business as usual and not examine, and if necessary, dismantle some of our old systems and old traditions, how will we ever change our situation? I was reading an article recently in which Richard Sealy, the Minister of Tourism, said that he took lashes for daring to invest in developing the Brazilian market as a new source of tourists for Barbados.

Why is that? Brazil is considered to be one of the most significant emerging global economies. The direct flight from Barbados to Brazil is about five hours and the cost is less than the eight hour flight to England. Shouldn’t we then be trying to develop Brazil and South America as new tourism markets, especially since North America and Europe are in severe crises? We need to begin to think differently.

Governments bring budgets year after year and just tinker with the numbers: take away allowances there, increase VAT there, but do they ever consider radical changes that will affect the fiscal deficit? I see that they are currently trying to sell shares in some Government institutions, but how about just outright privatisation? I wonder what the impact on Government’s wages bill would be if they privatised the port, the airport and CBC for example?

I know that there is no easy way to fix the problems that we are facing today but I believe we need to start with new wineskins. Once we have the new wineskins, or mindsets, to enable us to think differently, I believe that new wine will begin to flow.

* Donna Every is a motivational speaker, business coach and the author of the books What do you have in your house?, The Promise Keeper and Arise and Shine. She has a degree in Mathematics, is a Chartered Accountant and has an MBA. She is the Project Manager for the Education and Talent Development Pillar of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation.

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One Response to The Buck Stops Here

  1. Ormond Small February 11, 2015 at 9:55 am

    I thought this was very good and interesting subject and something that we can explore.


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