The Ronnie Yearwood Column – Playing in the Small Sandbox
The following is Dr. Ronnie Yearwood’s column published in the Business Authority, Nation newspaper – 4 December 2017
Where are the big ideas in the upcoming election on governance, economy, education, energy?
What are the three big policy changes from either of the political parties? In July a group of Barbadians, what politicians like to call ‘ordinary’ Bajans got together to try to think about some of things that Barbados could do to be better.
Not once do I recall one of the suggestions was for a debushing or beautifying programme, or for road paving. Do you know why? Because we ‘ordinary’ voting Bajans think that is the job of the Government.
Perhaps start by not calling us in a derogatory way, ‘ordinary’ Bajans as if somehow there is a distance between the government and the governed. Next, as a government you cannot offer us what we should have and what you should be doing.
For the more Biblically inclined among the readership – or even if not because the Bible does have excellent lessons – it reminds me of the story of the temptation of Jesus, where the devil takes Jesus to a mountain and showed Him the kingdoms of the world which he would give Him in return if Jesus bowed
down and worshiped him. Well we know the rest of the story. Jesus did not bow down.
How can you offer something that you do not own, that is not yours to offer and frankly is already in the possession of the person you offer it to, otherwise than by trying to trick them? Not in this day in age, should we be promised and should we listen to promises that the roads will be fixed or street lights be installed, or that residents in areas unfit to live will be moved to suitable and proper housing, schools will be clean and safe places to learn, garbage will be collected, police will be on the street, road sides will be cleaned, Government buildings maintained and not left to decay at which point we waste money to build new ones to put a plaque with someone’s name, regulations enforced -and I could continue with this list. How can we be promised what is ours, how can we be promised the most basic building blocks of our country when we already own them?
I get the impression and would gladly, though I think unlikely, be corrected that our politicians are simply playing in a small sandbox in a corner and worse yet, we allow this. Anyone who knocks on your door talking about road paving programmes or street lights should be told, ‘is that not your job as a Government’, ‘what is your big idea?’ They have not stopped playing small politics and need to start thinking big.
Can we have every house in Barbados running on solar energy in a few years? Could we also in a few years go to a zero emissions society with electric cars? Can we have minimum to zero bank charges for transfers and dealing with your own money, and generally make banking more open and fairer to consumers? It is utterly unacceptable that charges exist even between the same brand-name banks to move money from one part of the Caribbean to another. I know I will be told, yes it is the same brand but the banks in each country are different. As a consumer, is that really my concern? No! I just want it fixed.
For example, how can we transform education. For years we have heard that we need to abolish the 11 plus because it breeds and perpetuates inequalities. For as many ‘bright’ students that emerge, we know our school system fails many of our children; yet we still have the system. Added to that we create more sixth form schools doing more of the same. How about liberalising the education system and introducing choice where different schools can offer different types of education? Is CXC the only form of qualification that should be available from the majority of schools, or can we have for example the International Baccalaureate as an offering, or a grade point average system? Where is the next big thing in education?
We have to think big and create new things, some which we have not even imagined yet. But we create an environment for people to imagine new ways of service delivery, energy, education, transport. Sometimes new does not mean reinventing the wheel but new applications which can be transformative.
The point is that piecemeal will not do for Barbados. It will not get us the Barbados we already own. So do not, and I say this to every politician, do not come offering the small things, the things that any responsible and good government aiming to perfect the Good Society should already be doing and as a voter we should not be asking you to do. Go to the next level. How can we innovate for example in energy, governance, education and health? If as a politician you judge yourself as seriously lacking, then do not come.
We should not be wasting seats in Parliament, as a friend last week told me, on people who are past their sell by dates. His fear which I share is that sadly we will get more of the same and as voters we may fall for the trickery that Jesus showed us not to fall for, and bow down to accept what is already ours.