It is time to Re-imagine; Re-order and Re-define {LETTER TO THE EDITOR}

In the context of modern Barbadian politics, one could either be part of the solution or the problem. Criticism that is not constructive really does not help. It merely reflects the same ‘tired politics of indecision,’ which Barbados has long out-grown and which (for the most part) has contributed significantly to the mess, this country is now in.

{FILE IMAGE: HILTON BARBADOS, Sept 2010} ' -- Tribalism and divisions (very often fuelled by those who ought to know better) are an indulgence we Barbadians can barely afford when all is going well and our people are generally prospering...'

A few weeks ago, someone from the Private Sector group called on the Barbados Government to “CUT” expenditure. Not only does that seem (some-what) a bizarre disclaimer but the tone had me a bit surprised. People familiar with how Government works – know that Goods and Services; Salaries and Wages and Transfers & Subsidies – account for the bulk of Government’s expenditure. Secondly, they are also aware that what constitutes public expenditure, in many instances, results in private sector revenue. Put another way: it is the private sector that benefits substantially from the same funds, which it now scolds Government for spending – even though I accept that our public finances (especially on the expenditure side) must be brought under control. Mere cutting is therefore akin to the same deferral (more of the same) which urgently needs to be addressed.

The seriousness of the much broader point as regards transfers – was unintentionally emphasized by an Officer of the BLP – in relation to the QEH. The Nation newspaper of October 25th 2011, reports the BLP’s “Incoming Chairman” as having charged that a shortage within the Ministry of Health, resulted from the QEH’s inability to pay some $3 million to Stokes & Bynoe, $2.5 million to Brydens Distribution, along with millions owed to Collins Limited and other businesses.

While some “may” therefore construe those comments as criticism, intended to portray the Government in a negative light, judging from a news article in Barbados online publication: “The Bajan Reporter” it would seem that in contrast, a far more comprehensive background as well as ‘constructive criticism’ was offered, when former Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C., M.P., addressed a St. Michael South Branch meeting at the Bay Primary School on Sunday, October 23rd, 2011.

I totally agree with her suggestion for: “A Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, inclusive of the Government, Opposition and Independent Members – to investigate the growth of expenditure to state Corporations (Transfers) and report back to Parliament by January 2012 so that the Ministry of Finance can act decisively knowing there is national consensus and before the Estimates in March.”

To their credit, the two gentlemen above-mentioned – identified the problem and the consequence of the problem, but did not offer any solution? Not surprisingly, Mia Mottley again advanced what seems like a credible resolution to this vexing problem relating to “Transfers and Subsidies to Statutory Corporations.” It would seem that she also made the honest observation that successive governments have been ‘deferring critical decisions about the future of Barbados for too long’ and that ‘the only people, who are suffering as a result of it, are ordinary Barbadians.’ How can it be ‘business as usual,’ especially if our development and governance model needs urgent transformation?

Based on “The Bajan Reporter’s” understanding of what Miss Mottley said, it would seem that in 2004-2005, Salaries and Wages in the Public Service of Barbados went from $645 million to $860 million in financial year 2010-2011- and increase of some 33% in 6 years, while for the same period, “Transfers and Subsidies,” climbed from some $716 million to one billion one hundred and forty-seven million dollars – a 64% increase, which almost doubles the rate of increase when compared to Salaries and Wages.

To say that there is a need to “CUT” would be a vulgar way of not highlighting the truth, which is that Barbados now has a system of Government, which it can no longer afford, requiring governance as we know it – to be re-imagined; re-ordered and re-defined. In my view, there is absolutely nothing to rescue, restore and rebuild once it is accepted that Barbados needs a new direction; a new politics and a new development model. This is therefore the time for serious people; serious politics, sound ideas and the best Plan. Mere criticism of Government is a style of politics Barbados has long out-grown.

Perhaps, there is no better way to end this article that with words uttered by Mia Mottley on September 29th 2010 when she addressed the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) “We must rise as one nation and as one people and work together to achieve our dreams, even if it means changing the way we govern ourselves in Parliament and in Government and in our political and private sector institutions. Tribalism and divisions (very often fuelled by those who ought to know better) are an indulgence we Barbadians can barely afford when all is going well and our people are generally prospering.

However, in any fierce battle, as confronts us now for the survival of our enterprises and for our people, we must talk with one another to identify what are our shared perspectives – and we must work together to achieve them.

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