The respected Bloomberg posted the headline [13/12/2013] Barbados Debt Higher Than Cyprus Prompts Firing of 3,000. The preamble to the article reads “Barbados will fire 3,000 public sector workers by March and freeze wages as the eastern Caribbean island’s debt burden soars and the International Monetary Fund says “urgent adjustments” are needed.” BU recalls in 2010 the suggestion to government to consider freezing public sector wages was mooted. In fact Minister David Estwick was publicly rapped on the knuckles for making the suggestion. The late Prime Minister David Thompson addressed the matter of wage freeze in his first press conference in 2010 – see Prime Minister David Thompson’s First Press Conference in 2010.
Where we find ourselves, AGAIN will provoke the usual political cackle from participants in the diluted Westminster system of government we practice. In fact, leading political scientists and pundits will rationalize the political cackle as NORMAL, emanating from an adversarial system borrowed from a colonial past. Despite years of investing i education we have given little thought to changing the system of governance which continues to be a polarising force in a 2×3 country given how irrelevant it has become.
The national discussion will now mirror the tenor of the 90s when another DLP administration took the decision to slash public sector wages by 8% and jettison 8,000 public sector employees. Lessons learned you think? ‘Go to the ant thou sluggard…’.
The BU household always focuses on the part of the issue which Barbadians feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it explains why traditional media and prominent people in society read and contribute to BU but with a hushed involvement. This is the hypocrisy which supports a mendicant culture which is no longer relevant in a today’s world. No more preferential treatment from the More Developed Countries (MDCs) and no more lack of competition from the Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs).
The sending home of 3,000 public sector workers is not the solution to the problems which confront Barbados, it is a manifestation of one of many symptoms which ail the nation. If there is one issue where there is consensus, it is that our economy has some deep flaws which must be addressed. Even the head of government’s economic advisory council has publicly admitted this to be the case. It seems to BU this was a good place to have started the discussion regarding a strategic economic approach in 2008. Looking forward, where do we go from here full in recognition that there is no silver bullet?
The two party system in Barbados has clearly failed us in the last 20 years. ‘Go to the ant thou sluggard, consider its ways and be wise’. Greek mythology refers to the mighty phoenix being reborn from the ashes of its predecessor. How will Barbados re-emerge from the economic and social morass it now finds itself?
As a country we have to admit that both parties have failed us in recent years. We need to spend some time evaluating the present system of governance; its strength and weaknesses. Arising from the exercise we need to chart a roadmap for governance over the next two to three years. We have the option to shuffle the chairs on the Titanic but it must be obvious to all at this stage the Titanic is sinking. The time has come to take our casualties to take our hits, and move to temporary haven. What the last 20 years has painfully exposed in the Sandiford period, and now Stuart, is that the destiny of our nation must be chartered out of a fuller ENGAGEMENT in the system by the PEOPLE.
Barbados has done well in the post-Independence period, we have maintained a stable political system the envy of many. It is this level of maturity which has served us well in the last 40 years which Barbadians will turn to manage what promises to be the most challenging period since 1966. A good first step is for Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart to breathe confidence back into the economy by firing Minister Sinckler or perhaps the better option, to return to the people for a mandate. Surely the rapid deterioration in the economic fortune of Barbados post February 2013, including the flight of foreign exchange contrary to the Governor Delisle Worrell’s repeated assurances merit drastic intervention.