The Grenville Phillips Column – Empty Promises
I am scheduled to be deployed to Haiti shortly to assist them in their recovery efforts. However, the recent social unrest, which resulted in deaths, property damage and flights into Haiti being suspended, may put those plans in jeopardy. With the Government awaiting the IMF’s directives, Haiti’s experience is relevant to Barbados at this time.
The IMF directed the Haitian government to implement severe austerity, which included an almost doubling of fuel prices. When the fuel increases were announced, the people rioted. It should be remembered that the IMF also directed the Guyana’s government to double the income taxes on the Guyanese.
Having had over 10 deployments to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010, including during their elections, I do not think that the increase in fuel prices is the root cause of this crisis. They know that sacrifices have to be made to improve their economy, and they have made them in the past. However, after suffering for so long, the Haitian people hate being tricked.
Their political candidates promised to address mismanagement and corruption if they were elected. The people expected improvements in government efficiency, and arrests of those accused of corruption, before being targeted for austerity. However, to have austerity forced on them, without the promised efficiency and arrests, appeared to be too much for the people to bear from a Government that promised to be different.
As we canvassed during the recent elections, people wanted to know what Solutions Barbados would do about the gross corruption in which both established political parties have repeatedly accused the other of engaging. We promised the most effective policy to address corruption. Both payers and receivers of bribes would have to pay a fine of 10 times the value of the bribe, and whistle-blowers would be rewarded with the full value of the bribe.
Surprisingly, most people were not satisfied with this response. They wanted the guilty politicians imprisoned. However, our policy was not to imprison non-violent offenders, but to fine them. So while we understood what the people wanted, and could have positioned ourselves to benefit from the 26% swing away from the DLP, we were unwilling to damage our reputations by promising what we were unwilling to deliver.
We promised Barbadians prosperity without austerity because it was possible – and it still is. We promised to improve efficiency and reduce wastage in the public sector, by implementing the customer-focused international quality management standard, ISO 9001, because we could. We promised to effectively address corruption in the most effective manner possible because we could. However, the people wanted ‘blood’, and those skilled in political public relations gave them exactly what they were accustomed to receiving from politicians – empty promises.
It is very easy to simply ask people what they want, and then promise them what they have asked for with no intention of ever fulfilling those promises. Any Solutions Barbados candidate who engaged in that sort of behaviour would likely be voted out of the party at our next meeting.
The public were led to believe that savings from the proper management of the public service would fund their expensive manifesto promises, and not increased taxes. The public were also led to believe that the arrest and imprisonment of corrupt politicians would immediate follow the general election. If the BLP and DLP are indeed the same political party, governed by the same prime directive to protect each other from scrutiny, then no arrests should be expected.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com