The Grenville Phillips Column – The Incurable Disease
We are now in BERT Phase 3. After the IMF’s recent assessment of the previous phases, the result of the BERT severe austerity program is foreseen – the BLP administration will meet the IMF’s targets.
To reduce government spending, the trend of laying-off persons will continue as planned. To reduce the transfers to government corporations, we will be forced to overpay for services that we have already paid for many times over. The operation will be successful – but the patient is unlikely to survive.
Our Members of Parliament are inflicted with an incurable disease whose symptoms continue to harm us. We have become their perpetual patient on whom they operate. It matters not how beneficial a program is to our health. Once they have decided to target it for a political advantage, it must be rejected and we must lose its benefits.
Back in 2002, I was requested by the government, under the then BLP administration, to chair a group of some of the most highly qualified non-politically partisan experts from 25 professional associations. For 3 months, we developed perhaps the most effective economic growth plan for Barbados. It worked well for those who implemented it. However, it had one vulnerability – political corruption. The DLP appear to have entirely ignored the plan during their decade in office.
Since the plan was developed under the Owen Arthur led BLP administration, it was assumed that the current administration would use it now that an economic growth plan is desperately needed. However, BERT publicly confirmed that they did not look at any such plan when they developed their severe austerity plan. As if to confirm the incurable nature of their disease, they publicly confirmed that they will never look at it in the future.
Why would the current BLP administration refuse to even look at an excellent, workable and proven non-austerity home-grown economic growth plan designed specifically for Barbados, and instead embrace an IMF severe austerity plan that contains no effective economic growth initiatives whatsoever? Why indeed.
It is finally beginning to dawn on some of them that when the patient dies, there will be no one left to applaud their achievement of meeting the IMF targets. So they must find an economic growth plan from somewhere. Unfortunately for us, the incurable nature of their disease dictates that they must ignore what they have already politicised.
The current administration acknowledged the critical need to improve the management of public services. However, rather than actually improve their management, they have developed a public relations campaign where they must repeatedly mention “fit-for-purpose”, while laying off the very persons who can help them do just that. That is not better management.
There is an international management standard called ISO 9001. It works in public services across cultural boundaries. It is desperately needed to improve the management of Barbados’ public services.
The customs department in El Salvador attracted typical complaints of delays, corruption, and significant abandonment of goods. Once they implemented the ISO management standard, it was quickly transformed into the most modern customs department in South America, with significantly improved efficiency and almost no complaints. Not a single employee was dismissed, even though many had worked in the Ministry of Finance for over 20 years and were over 50 years old.
The ISO philosophy is not ‘who is wrong’, but ‘what is wrong and correct it’. Customer dissatisfaction is almost always a result of poor management, which can be corrected. However, rather than properly manage our public workers, we are playing the lunatic by first sending them home and then searching for a management plan.
Barbados is a member of the ISO organisation, and the ISO 9001 international standard was developed for all nations, including ours. So why are we the only nation on this planet to formally reject the ISO 9001 quality management standard? Because the disease is incurable. The BLP short-sightedly spent the entire election campaign ridiculing this excellent international management standard, and once they politicised it, we are to be automatically disqualified from its benefits.
The DLP, after consistent failure, appeared to have stumbled upon the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which was perhaps the fairest tax Barbados has ever had. By contrast, VAT is by far, the most unfair tax we have ever had. However, the NSRL was targeted as a political issue and the most gullible of us marched against one of the very few things that had actually benefited all of us.
The BLP and DLP have allowed their disease to be incurable for them by choice. It compelled them to ridicule Solutions Barbados’ non-austerity policies that can only benefit Barbados. Their disease can only remain incurable if their ideas are the only ones allowed to contend. Tragically for us, their active supporters in the established media are doing themselves and all Barbadians a grave disservice by irresponsibly ensuring just that.