The Grenville Phillips Column–Mr. Prime Minister, We Still Have Options
Submitted by Grenville Phillips, founder of Solutions Barbados
Dear Prime Minister: Recently, there have been a chorus of calls from prominent Barbadians, insisting that you call an early general election. Allow me to offer some unsolicited unbiased advice on this matter.
As our Prime Minister, you are responsible for projecting calm during turbulent times, and you are doing this remarkably well. You are also responsible for holding your Ministers accountable for how they are managing the Ministries which you have entrusted to their care. Your Ministers typically receive feedback from the public in the form of complaints. Therefore, you can measure their performance by how effectively those complaints are addressed.
The recent repeated complaints about: pot holes, water shortages, long queues, delayed responses, late payments, etc, suggests that these Ministries are not properly managed. The ISO 9001 Quality Management System is designed to permanently address complaints to the satisfaction of the public. Allow me to suggest that you direct your Ministers to implement this quality management system with dispatch. Please note that implementing this system will not cost the Government any additional money and requires no enabling legislation; therefore, your Ministers should have no excuses.
Mr Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance is different from the other ministries. The Ministry of Finance’ performance is objectively assessed by the International Monetary Fund and external rating agencies. Unlike the other Ministries, the performance of the Ministry of Finance can send most of us into a level of poverty, where we would long for the days when all we had to complain about were potholes and long waits.
It is tragic to see the Ministry of Finance floundering despite their best efforts. They have explained the economic context and have developed careful strategies to address Barbados’ economic problems. Regrettably, their strategies contain fatal flaws which limit their effectiveness.
There are currently three published strategies for addressing Barbados’ economic problems. The first is the Government’s ‘Medium-term Growth and Development Strategy, 2013-2020’, which is not working. Therefore, the Social Partnership has been tasked with defining a new economic strategy.
The second is Minister Estwick’s strategy which the Cabinet has reportedly rejected. This strategy has not been made available for public scrutiny; therefore, we can only speculate about its contents. The third is Solutions Barbados’ strategy, which has been available for rigorous public scrutiny for the past 2 years on SolutionsBarbados.com. It is based on proven solutions, and does not attract the austerity that former Prime Minister Arthur predicts will be in his plan.
Mr Prime Minister, we still have options, but Barbados’ success depends on how well you manage your Cabinet. Developers of ideas tend to become so emotionally attached to their ideas that they find it challenging to let them go when their idea’s ‘past-due date’ has long expired. This is how it seems with the Ministry of Finance in developing fiscal strategies with fatal flaws.
A useful analogy is to consider a person making a pitcher of Mauby and mistakenly adding salt instead of sugar. After the person has used so much Mauby bark, and has included so many diverse spices, he is then unwilling to waste the final product. So he serves it in hope, while explaining its medicinal properties as justification. The public samples the salty product and voices its displeasure. However, rather than wasting the product down the drain and starting a new batch using sugar, he insists on tweaking the salty product, believing that someday, in the not too distant future, he will get it to taste better.
Mr Prime Minister, we have sucked salt for too long enough. It is time to tell the Ministry of Finance to let it go and consider another plan. The Ministry will doubtless request another tweaking iteration, but you must refuse them. If the Ministry of Finance adopts the Solutions Barbados strategy, then you will certainly save the economy from the foreseen ruin of continuing along the current path.
If the Ministry is unable to let go of their plan, then you need to shuffle cabinet responsibilities while you still have options, and place a Minister in the Ministry of Finance who is willing to properly examine alternative strategies, otherwise we are all sunk.