Where do we go from here?

The current unseemly dispute between the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank not only sends shock waves though the local and international financial communities, but also indicates how close we are to the edge of the precipice.

What is at stake here is not just the economy but a whole society. At the root of the problem is our antiquated educational system which leaves the majority of our youth ill-equipped to do anything profitable but sell drugs, while we celebrate ad nauseam the 15 per cent who succeed at the Common Entrance Exam and at the Barbados Scholarships and Exhibitions.

This is a recipe for economic and social disaster in a knowledge society whose main resource is our people. I recommend three recent different analyses of Barbados that come at the situation from different angles but all finger education as a serious problem: one by Jay Mandel, one by Avi Persaud, and one by Annalee Babb.

https://www.cavehill.uwi.edu/fss/econ/research-and-publications/docs/wp-4.aspx 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/gig-economy-secular-stagnation-sir-arthur-lewis-avinash-persaud?articleId=8083564711568489836 

http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1057/s41301-016-0046-9?author_access_token=NHIfpNRLRS1AFClhoH3aFVxOt48VBPO10Uv7D6sAgHuJq6HLC3XX2DmeJT68FQvvJU8x9ZdJAo54l-zzuC8Rsf9Li4oC7ClVu22A_B1uBop0V7VKE4qJL6mJTifK7eC0hoTHAz9g3HHDmSOHYmfP4w%3D%3D

Despite all our difficulties, Barbadians will pull together because we have great faith in this country. Barbadians of all walks of life are crying out to help in whatever way they can, but we need leadership.

Our present situation is untenable. There are three options for the Prime Minister.

First option: fire the Minister of Finance, thank the governor for his sterling service over the years and let him go on to greener pastures. Assume responsibility for the Ministry of Finance; make sure you’re getting the best technical advice from the public servants; humbly seek the help and advice of the business community and the labour movement and other members of civil society, work out together a plan to pull the country back from the brink of disaster; then roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Issues, some more urgent than others, that need to be dealt with in such a framework include:

•   Sort out the mess that is the money owed to the Government and the money owed by Government

•   Initiate public sector transformation over a six year period with the aim of reducing size and cost of the sector by 15 – 20 per cent. This can be done without any mandatory lay-offs, by re-engineering of work processes, streamlining of existing operations, making greater use of information technology or other innovations, providing services through alternative modes of service delivery, and increasing the private sector’s participation in the delivery of public services. Methods would include not filling vacant posts, recruitment freezes, redeployment within the civil service, and voluntary retirement schemes by which staff in designated grades could leave the civil service voluntarily with immediate retirement benefits and compensation. In the meantime, work should start on objectives of inculcating a performance-based, service-oriented management culture within the civil service, and providing a motivating and positive work environment in which employees are treated as a valuable resource within a culture of trust and caring.

•  Over the same time period, reduce by 50 per cent the average time it takes to issue a permission/approval or to deliver a service. Every citizen should have the right to know exactly at what stage an application is at all times. As part of the exercise, each department would be required to set specific public timelines for meeting the new service delivery standards.

Second option: continue as before and sail happily over the cliff. The only thing that would then pick up the pieces and ‘rescue’ Barbados is the IMF.

Third option: call an election.

The best option for the country would be the third, but the Prime Minister is unlikely to choose that.

We all know that. So we got another whole year to go.

God save Barbados!

(Dr Peter Laurie is a retired Head of the Barbados Foreign Service, former Permanent Secretary and former Ambassador to the United States)

7 Responses to Where do we go from here?

  1. Tony Webster February 25, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Mr.Laurie, you have exquisitely summed up the status quo…the virtual state of stasis; the fundamental reforms screaming for action; and the options which rest, uncomfortably, upon our P.M.’s head. I hope one day to meet you.

    There is only one potential fly, buzzing around your three bowls of soup: the possible outcome of an early election- or more likely- the one of the familiar last-gasp variety. If DEM win, they will sail happily forward, as Bajans would have affirmed their stewardship….and option 2, would be then self-fulfilling.

    Which leaves us with option 4: to pray for our country. I assure you, I do this every day.

    Reply
  2. Tony Webster February 25, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Erratum: Dr. Laurie. Apologies.

    Reply
  3. bajan boy February 26, 2017 at 12:17 am

    That is too much home work for a lazy little speightful boy. Easiest thing if he didnt enjoy gloating in the position is to resign…

    Reply
  4. Troy February 26, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Well said Dr. Laurie. But we all know how aloof and stubborn our “Leader” is. We all anticipate he is gonna ride this dead horse till next February. What we need is Divine intervention in what ever form it may come. Does the Eager Eleven have a hotline number ?

    Reply
  5. Jus me February 26, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Shockwaves!!!
    International???!!!!!

    GETREAL

    Reply
  6. Hal Austin February 28, 2017 at 7:22 am

    The amateur theatre between Chris Sinckler and Dr Worrell does not send any shock waves through the international community. That is nonsense. International financial bodies do not care two hoots about what is going on in Barbados. Is this part of the myth of punching above your weight?
    In fact , most Barbadians working in international financial services think the whole thing is a joke.
    It may be of importance to Barbadians living in Barbados, so what.

    Reply
  7. Hal Austin February 28, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Troy,

    The ultimate leader is not aloof. How can a barefoot boy from Marchfield be aloof. He is just out of it.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *