#BTEditorial – From Saul to our economic Paul

The former American army general Dwight D Eisenhower, who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961, had an interesting take on leadership.

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it’s usually called assault, not leadership. I’ll tell you what leadership is. It’s persuasion, and conciliation, and education, and patience. It’s long, slow, tough work.”

However, thought leaders also argue that the strongest leaders are not afraid to change their minds.

In a piece that appeared in Forbes Magazine in May 2009, John B McGuire, a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, a provider of leadership education and research, tackled the subject of charting a new course during economic turmoil.

“History shows that change initiatives – realignment, restructuring, re-engineering and the rest – succeed only one time out of every four. Why so much failure? Because senior leaders blame their organizational problems on faulty structures, systems and processes, and those are the things they try to fix. They are partly right, but there is usually another, more powerful, factor at work too: the company’s culture.

“Change in operations, especially dramatic change, doesn’t work without deeper and more subtle change in corporate culture and in how leaders think. The systems, practices and beliefs that drove yesterday’s success – in other words, the organization’s culture – are always deeply ingrained. And they’re usually not what you need to move forward in a radically altered economic and competitive world. Change leadership, far more than skilled management, is what truly transforms organizational culture and drives bottom line results,” McGuire wrote.

The latest appeal by the fired Governor of the Central Bank Dr DeLisle Worrell to take the necessary steps to do the proverbial Lazarus with the economy suggests he is a student of the McGuire school of leadership.

After seven plus years of hitting people on the head with his economic medicine – or, at the very least, being a passive observer while the Freundel Stuart administration hit Barbadians on the head with its economic programmes – Dr Worrell has had a Damascene moment and has adopted a more persuasive and conciliatory approach as he preaches a new, more forceful economic message.

However, by the online comments, it seems Barbadians are not prepared to listen because too many simply have not forgotten that between November 2009 and February 2017, when he was fired, the goodly economist had been the choir leader of sorts, as the Stuart Government inflicted tax after tax on us.

Too many feel that Dr Worrell had placed the security of his own job over the interest of the general population and the country, therefore, whatever he says now has no merit.

To be fair to him, in the waning days of his governorship, Dr Worrell had become somewhat critical of some of Government’s fiscal measures.

Mere weeks before Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler fired him, Dr Worrell said on the bank’s live television forum, It Matters Fiscally, that Barbados was existing beyond its means, and he made no secret of his desire to see an end to the practice of printing $50 million every month to pay public workers because the tax collection agency, the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), was not earning enough to cover the monthly bills.

Therefore, in order to “eliminate” the deficit Government must either raise taxes or send home even more public servants, he advised at the time.

Clearly, this was not the sort of advice, Government wanted from its chief fiscal adviser, at least not publicly.

However, now that he is no longer bound by the office of governor, the man who was once seen as the administration’s semi- Svengali, has been even more open and forceful in his criticism of Government’s policies.

What Dr Worrell recommended in his latest paper, 2018: The Outlook for the Barbados Economy, released this week – most of which was a repeat of his seven-point plan in last month in his paper, The Barbados Economy: The Road to Prosperity, are a wake-up call for a hectic political year.

This is the year when real decisions must be made – about who will lead the country over the next five years, about how to get us out of this economic stalemate, about the policies that will engender confidence, about pay rises for public servants, etc.

The options that Dr Worrell set out, though they are a repetition of what many a respected economist had said in the past, are the only real choices facing Barbados at this time. We would love to hear what the various political parties seeking our votes have to say about these recommendations. No personal attacks, no smokes and mirrors, no hanging on the fence. Just an honest, open pledge comment on whether they plan to take his advice or not. And if not, what are the alternatives.

Mass layoffs never appear good in a country with a population as small as ours. One job loss can affect entire households. In this regard, his recommendation to cut the public service by 1,500 a year over a three-year period sounds harsh. However, he proposed funding from international financial institutions for the separation packages.

How about his proposal for a ten per cent cut in subsidies to state enterprises, his recommendation for “an aggressive” programme of divestment of some statutory bodies, his suggestion that there be a temporary freeze of all public investments, except those funded by foreign finance? How about getting rid of the unpopular National Social Responsibility Levy? Don’t these have merit?

Will the next administration be willing to go to the International Monetary Fund for support, as Dr Worrell and many economists before him have suggested?

As the well-known advertising slogan for The National Enquirer supermarket tabloid would say: “Enquiring minds want to know.”

The recommendations by the fired governor are no prurient words, they are serious proposals that require serious consideration. They are also a sign that he has recognized the need for a transformation in attitudes and approach – a change in culture –  if the economy is to experience an alternative future, as he puts it, to the one we all currently envisage and dread.

He may be a flawed and imperfect messenger, but he is worth listening to.

7 Responses to #BTEditorial – From Saul to our economic Paul

  1. Ali Baba
    Ali Baba January 6, 2018 at 6:28 am

    BT he may be a flawed an imperfect messenger, but he is worth listening too…firstly any person who is willing to take bread out peoples’ mouth, must be seen as an enemy….DR WORRY WHY ANYONE WOULD WANT TO BORROW MONEY TO SEND HOME PEOPLE & WITH SEPARATION PACKAGES? NOW AT 8 YEARS GOV. PENSIONABLE FOR LIFE…THEY ARE PEOPLE WHO JOIN THE WORK FORCE AT AN EARLY AGE, HAVING PASS 33&1/3 DOING 40 + YEARS BUT AS YOUNG AS 57…WHY NO SHORTEN THEY YEARS AN WITH PENSION (BOTH) AND EMPLOY OTHERS, BECAUSE WHEN ONE GET TO 33+ THATS THE CUT OFF POINT. WHY NOT TAKE ALL THOSE GOVERNMENT THE VEHICLES OF THE ROAD, CUT BACK SALARIES FROM THE TOP ONLY, REPEAL THOSE IGRUNT TAXES, COLLECT ALL OUT STANDING TAXES AN FROM FRIENDS ALIKE…MIGHTY CONCESSION HAVE BEEN GIVEN AWAY, THAT NEEDS CHANGING, LOTTERY HAVEN’T PAID TAXES IN 7 YEARS, WHAT ABOUT THE TURF CLUB?…JUST SOME POINTERS, BUT OH NO, U PREFER TO GO THAT WAY…….U WERE SITTING ON 2.8BIL IN FX 2008 AND BY 2010 MONIES GONE UNDER UR WATCH, PRINTERS WORKING OVERTIME 7 LONG YEARS….BUT NOW U HAVE AH SOLUTION FOR EVERYTHING….

    Reply
  2. Errol Rayside
    Errol Rayside January 6, 2018 at 7:30 am

    This uncle Tom stool pigeon on his way to Damascus ??

    Reply
  3. Arthur Collymore
    Arthur Collymore January 6, 2018 at 8:50 am

    This, in my opinion, is a brilliant article. You’ve said much of what I’ve been saying, namely; that some will curse this messenger because of his tenure as governor & that what he recommends is but the only way to get us back to stability & growth. I’m involved in the political process & my views can be construed as partisan. However, because of my training in economics, I can critique any advise proffered.

    We keep shooting this messenger for reasons explained above (I too was critical of his governorship) but his proposals, if not implemented would see a worsening of our macro-economic fundamentals. The reason other noted economists are silent is because their proposals will be seen to represent the party with which they’re aligned in a climate where no party is willing to say exactly what they will do before the poll. I want Labour Party supporters to understand that their beloved party will be faced with the same policy options should they form the next govt. You would look silly if you denounce measures your party is forced to implement. My advice is to get past the personality of the ex-governor & deal with the merits or demerits of the mix of measures set before the country. We’re in this mess because our DLP govt acted in much the same way many of you are acting now, shoot the messenger & kill the message. Even if you shoot this messenger, the message will be as relevant for the BLP as it is for the DLP.

    A

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    • John Everatt January 6, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Yes this is true although my initial reaction as opposed to shoot the messenger was to accept Worrell’s solutions but still kick him for being the lacky that he was during his days with the central bank all the way up to his last 2 weeks there. He obviously knew at that time that printing all that money was going to bankrupt the country but for years stood behind these deisions that had been made by Sinclair. Guess he valued his job more than the country he was serving.

      Reply
  4. Anthony Wilson January 6, 2018 at 10:21 am

    This is an insightful editorial but it would be really helpful if Dr Worrell would be kind enough to answer this question: Could you please tell Barbadians the name of the international financial institution that would be willing to fund separation packages for 1,500 public servants over three years WITHOUT making the liberalisation of the island’s exchange rate a condition of the loan?
    Dr Worrell knows the answer, so one is forced to wonder if he is not advocating a stealth devaluation.
    It should be noted that the imposition of the NSRL and the maintenance of a decade-long public sector wage freeze is equivalent to an internal devaluation. Both of these measures have pauperised the Barbados middle class.

    Reply
  5. Michael Crichlow
    Michael Crichlow January 6, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Errol Rayside if the person speaking from the burning bush is Stewart.?..stupse!!

    Reply
  6. Ralph W Talma January 6, 2018 at 11:26 am

    @A Wilson. Well said Sir. If only the Government, who has sight of the financial books would tell the people the truth, then they would know what to expect. But, it should also remember: too much taxation have destroyed the prospects of many Nations.

    Reply

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