Time to change

This week I was doing some research in one of the Government departments they had the Parliamentary debate on, so I was forced to listen to some of it. I am really amazed at how much time is spent by members of the House going over the past and how much time is spent blaming the other side for past and present crises in the country.

With regard to the sewage problem, I really am not concerned at this point with who introduced it and if it was implemented badly to begin with, and who has not maintained it. I also don’t want to know that Fort Lauderdale and other US cities have sewage issues. I want to know when Barbados’ issues will be fixed and what damage control is being done to salvage our tourism industry.

While it is great to look back at our history and learn from it, why do politicians seem to spend so much time looking back and so little time looking forward. I would love to hear some of the visions for the future. Thankfully, in spite of the criticizing and condemning, most of the parties seem to agree that Barbados needs new revenue streams, and it seems that the creative industries sector is being touted as the way forward. This is something that I endorse, although I do believe there are other streams of revenue that we can develop.

I am therefore pleased to have discovered the BEAT Group, whose vision is to rebuild the Barbados brand through entertainment. They see the need for “a viable, compelling vision, along with capital investment to build a sustainable and vibrant future”. Their mission is: To make little Barbados a big entertainment destination, and they have a vision of “A world class Bridgetown entertainment and arts district featuring iconic venues that bring renewed vitality and vibrant night life back to historic Bridgetown”.

What has particularly drawn me to this group is that it shares many of my aspirations for the country. They believe, as I do, that people are ready right now “to come together and do something big and bold to secure our shared well-being and the future of Barbados.” I am convinced beyond a doubt, that our coming together is the key to solving many of the island’s issues.  Our present political system does not allow or support that. At present, we have a political party system with about four main parties seeking to contest the next general election. Whatever the outcome, we will have a Government and an Opposition. The Government will make proposals and the Opposition will invariably oppose them, because that is their job. It really is time to change this system.

A friend of mine reminded me only today of my novel, The High Road, which was about (in her words) a utopian version of Barbados. The novel is about the citizens of the country coming together to implement the changes necessary to make Barbados the number one place to live, work and do business. I truly believe that we cannot transform Barbados without unity and we cannot achieve unity with our current political system, since the whole basis of it is division, with a Government on one side and an opposition on the other. Even in the debate, references were made to “the other side”, generally to criticize something. Wouldn’t it be astounding if one day someone got up in Parliament and praised the “other side” for doing something positive? Wouldn’t it be even better if there was no “other side”?

As you may know, I’ve been writing my novel, Vaucluse, for the last two years. My research told me that the subject of my book, Henry Peter Simmons, was in Parliament for two years — 1811-1812 and 1813-1814. In those days there was no two-party system; independents represented each parish and members were elected for one year only. The criterion for being eligible to be elected to represent a parish was based on owning land in the parish. Perhaps this is a system that we need to consider again, with three-year representation rather than one year. That is a more bearable time frame for choosing the wrong person. Rather than eligibility based on land ownership only, it would also be based on what the representative can bring to the House of Assembly and to the nation, in terms of wisdom, expertise and proven ability. That would certainly eliminate people winning a seat primarily because they are affiliated with a particular party.

What amazes me is that Florida, for example, has over 18 million people and 27 people in the US House of Representatives. Why would Barbados, with only 270,000 need 30 people to represent us? One person for each parish and a Prime Minister would be enough. We would not need to pay an Opposition leader either. How much money would the country save by reducing the size of the Parliament and the number of ministries?

I heard a well-known political commentator dismiss the idea of an independent winning a seat in Parliament. Perhaps it is time to return to the days of having all independents representing the citizens of the nation, so that it would be a case of Barbados first rather than party first and so that the division that keeps us from moving forward will be replaced by unity, which will give us the ability to truly make Barbados the number one place to live, work and do business.

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