Revamp social partnership

A former head of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) is calling for a major revamping of the Social Partnership.

Mark Thompson, who served as BCCI president between 2004 and 2006, told the audience attending the Barbados Labour Party-sponsored People’s Forum at the St George Secondary School last night that the partnership had served the country well, but the time had come for it to evolve.

“If we agree that tripartite consultation has served us well, then we must explore how this way of working can take us to where we want to go. We are clearly facing a myriad of issues that we need to resolve. However, I put it to you that embodied in any resolution is where do we want to be on the other side of this crisis. I don’t believe we have really examined that.

“How can we know if we have really resolved anything unless we have clearly identified where we want to be, so that we can truly go about solving the problem? You see how we solve the problem is bound up in the vision.

“Vision is necessary because without it there is no clear strategy, and without strategy everyone is breaking for themselves; and that applies across the board,” he suggested.

Thompson, an architect by profession, said this applied to the Government, private sector and on the individual level. “We must first identify where we want to go and apply

the necessary strategies. Therefore, if we return to the concept of the Social Partnership, should we not use this trusted and tried formula to solving our issues and crafting a way forward to which all parties at the table can buy in?

“This cannot be achieved on a volunteer basis. [As it stands now] everyone who is a participant in the partnership has their respective and substantive vocation. The ministers of Government have their policy directives to attend in their ministries; the union bosses have their worker constituents to represent; the private sector leaders have their business to attend to,” he stated.

Thompson, while suggesting that meeting on a monthly basis was not good enough at this stage in Barbados’ development, lamented that anything more intense was unsustainable in its current state.

In light of this, he suggested that the time had come for a paid team with members drawn from the three branches of the Social Partnership be put together to guide the country forward as far as its strategy was concerned.

“The team by necessity should comprise the best brains, the best we have to offer, and be charged with the task of formulating strategies to achieve our stated goals, based
on an articulated vision. Let’s call it our National Strategy Team. For them to be successful, they must have the ability and the leverage to interact with all agencies, public and private, without fear, in order to not only gather information, but also get things implemented. The team must have the ability to influence and change as necessary, or they will be ineffective.

“It must have the blessing of the Social Partnership to effect change, the blessing of the Prime Minister and all leaders of civil society. The National Strategy Team will be fully engaged in where Barbados is to be in say 2025 or 2030, and focused on putting together those strategies to get us there.

“[It will also be] responsible for making sure the strategies are implemented and [will be] constantly reviewing them and refining them,” Thompson further explained.

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