A Case for Less Intrusive Government
Submitted by Ziggy Greene
I have submitted many times that we in Bim need a new if not different political philosophy of governance. Both our main parties are social democrats or a variant thereof. There is really no daylight between the two in terms of political ideology. Both support social programmes and the only differential is the degree to which they do so. Whilst that gets them bragging rights every five years or so it has resulted in a mendicant Bim. One that sees bajans dependent on central government and if the government does not act we seem clueless as how to proceed. For example, grass would spring up in the road in front our house and unless the government come and weed it, it would dawn upon only a few of us that we could get a hoe, weed the said grass and dispose of it. Instead we would get a newspaper to take a photo of the grass and us protesting and imploring government to act. “That is their job” we would admonish, “ that is what I pay taxes for. “ This must stop.
I was very pleased by the St George North by election candidate, Grenville Phillips the Second’s plan, “ to make St George North the most prosperous constituency in Barbados” by people coming together to work for the betterment of themselves and their community. I implore every bajan to have a read and digest it carefully.
It has always been my contention that all political philosophies must change after 10 years if not sooner or they become a problem unto themselves. Whilst social democracy was in my opinion necessary at the beginning of independence when Barrow sought to expand free secondary and implement free university education, free health care etc. to assist the largely poor and disenfranchised black population, it is my position that that has ran way past its usefulness. In those days black parents would make sure that their children do their homework and pressure them to do well in school to avoid a life time of toil for the white man on the plantation for decent work in government. Not so today.
After 50 plus years of such point of service freeness, so to speak, we have become complacent. We rely too much on government. We expect to be employed by government after we get our big degrees. And if we are not or if government can’t pay us the wage we demand, we march, we protest, we bring down the government. This must stop. When we depend upon government to such an extent, the government owns us. We are their pawns to be used and abused every election cycle with gimmicks like de-bushing and building a playing pavilion whilst it employs sycophants as high paying consultants. Again this must stop.
I am a liberal in the traditional sense of the word not the American version. I want to see a smaller government, a less intrusive government but a caring and effective government; one that works for all its people. Power should be in the hands of the bajan majority, and by power I mean, economic power, from which every other power stems.
In that regard I am a sort of Garveyite. I want to see Blacks in Bim pool together and own businesses where they won’t be dependent on government and the white private sector for jobs. Where when they set out to study they would be thinking of how they would employ the theory learnt to advance business pursuits, how they could tap into the black diaspora and opportunities throughout the world especially on the African continent to build and share wealth among immediate family and wider Bim.
Equally government should not be involved in business directly but should make sure that the playing field for doing business is level, ensure that a business could be started easily all things being equal, that certain sectors of the community can’t gang together to squeeze out another section, that regulations for business to business, and people to business interface are in place and applied across the board.
All state owned enterprises and government sectors except those enforcing such regulations above and other services to be mentioned, should be sold off to employees acting collectively, trade unions or credit unions as a matter of policy. And an agreement signed to say that should there be cause for a resale of the business, government will have a majority say. This would serve to ensure that such enterprises are not sold off to certain sectors.
It this way the civil service will be reduced and economic power will redound to the majority in a collective style of ownership. That is not to say that government will have no power. Government will still have to provide security, health, and education for citizens. It goes without saying that the police will have to be independently run by an oversight body free of government interference. Education would be placed in the hands of board of governors with each school setting its own agenda according to the overall education mandate of government after broad consultation with employers and other segment of the society. The running of the QEH and polyclinics will be passed off to an authority independent of government authority but with government setting out priorities after broad consultation as to the health of the society and remediation.
The larger and more overarching role government should play is to encourage civic expectation from each citizen and show how this function is crucial to a well-functioning society. A society that is free to practice any religion or non religion, freedom of speech and expression, free to travel and interact among itself as long as such freedoms do not interfere with the freedoms of other bajans. Civic expectation also would include keeping our surroundings clean, not littering, no discrimination and a focus on making Bim livable for all bajans.
I know this sounds a bit pie in the sky but remember without vision people perish.
This piece does not address government’s right to tax for services provided and re pay outstanding debts etc.. That is another matter for discussion. It must also be remembered that government taxes derive from businesses and without such businesses government can’t provide services. So, the more businesses the more broad based and less encumbering taxes are.