It says a lot about some commenters on the blog that the blogmaster has to defend a position which says – Barbadians are too docile and in the process ceded key responsibilities in our democracy to the political elite.
In any political science 101 class the student learns that along with basic responsibilities of citizens to obey laws, pay taxes etc, there are other weighty responsibilities for the democracy to function successfully. There is relevance in the expressions a people get the government it deserves and the price of democracy is eternal vigilance.
Elected officials in our system of government are suppose to be servants of the people. Anyone living in Barbados knows that citizens have allowed politicians to do as they like for too long. Consequently, we have seen the duopoly become entrenched with citizens voting for B or D based on the prevailing level of frustration when elections become due.
The blogmaster is sufficiently aware that Barbadians have been promised enactment of transparency laws to include; integrity and freedom of information legislation by the duopoly. Believe it or not the promise goes back to the administration of the late Prime Minister Tom Adams, more than 40 plus years ago. The blogmaster is sure we have had more public debate about a 20% increase in the excise tax on sweet drinks than the refusal by the duopoly to enact transparency laws to enhance our system of governance.
Barbadians have allowed malfeasance to go unpunished by public servants. We have allowed the NIS to come under the microscope. We have tolerated moribund working committees of parliament established in our democracy to provide checks and balances. What have we done to demonstrate our disgust besides going to the polling booth in dwindling numbers every 5 years or something 3?
The blogmaster’s unfavourable appraisal of citizen participation in our democracy includes the media and other NGOs in civil society that are mandated to ACTIVELY represent the interest of citizenry. Barbadians cannot be satisfied with electing a government and remain passive until the next general election is called. The people we elect as well as we the citizens have clear responsibilities to ensure the a healthy democracy.
The ongoing dispute between Unity Workers Union (UWU) and government exposes the boast we are an uneducated people. It seems the height of ignorance actors on both sides are unable to resolve a dispute involving healthcare workers during a pandemic. This has occurred in a country with a social partnership established with a mandate to prioritize a space to facilitate consultation, dialogue and collaboration. It must be stated Caswell has written in this space his lack of confidence in the social partnership.
The blogmaster has no bone in the fight EXCEPT to acknowledge the life of a human being is priceless. If it is the grievances fueling the dispute for whatever reasons cannot be quickly resolved because of weighty imponderables – the raging pandemic has created the opportunity for reasonableness between the parties to be exercised. To maintain intractable positions with omicron starting to spike our rate of infections is an admission of idiocy. Bear in mind Barbados’ heavy dependence on tourism and the negative impact an elevated positivity rate will have on the country’s ability to earn precious foreign exchange. There is the possibility government’s finances may collapse and compromise its ability to service public sector payroll.
According to reports strike action about 100 strong is expected to take place this morning, a clear indication the chasm which exists between the two sides. If UWU backs down it may be interpreted as a defeat especially for the peppy head of UWU Caswell Franklyn who is fighting to increase his share of membership. If the government gives in, it opens the door for the industrial relations climate to become active at the worse time for government managing tanking revenues.
Of concern to the blogmaster is the role Most Honourable Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic has been reported to have played so far. It was reported the former schoolmates Bostic and Franklyn had agreed to a third party mediator to move the dispute along. According to Caswell Prime Minister Mottley vetoed the meeting after her request for striking workers to return to work was rejected. This slammed the door shut on possibly resolving the matter or at minimum depositing it in the abeyance bucket. The call of a snap general election eighteen months from when it is constitutionally due ensures the door remains closed. This is the second time Bostic has found himself in a pickle in recent months. His surprising admission he knew nothing about an arrangement between a Mark Maloney led initiative and government to procure AstraZeneca Covid 19 vaccine from a non traditional procurement source continues to tug at sensible minds. It surprised many including the blogmaster that Bostic and the permanent secretary- who signed off on the strange arrangement- were conferred high national honour. Through it all the phlegmatic Bostic has been serving out his final days having given notice of retirement from politics in October 2021.
In the system of government we practice all ‘big works’ related matters continue to lead to the first among equals in Cabinet. Hopefully in the debate to come about reforming the Barbados Constitution, whichever party wins the upcoming election, Barbados will seize the opportunity to create relevant constitutional clauses to ensure decision making by the executive becomes more decentralized from the prime minister led approach synonymous with a dictatorship.
It has been more than ten years the Barbados economy has been performing poorly – a situation triggered by the global financial crisis of 2008. Some of us are old enough to remember the oil crisis of the 70s as well as the fiscal challenges of the 90s which negatively affected the cost of living for Barbadians. There was the global economic boom of the 90s that ended in the early 2000s which coincided with the Owen Arthur administration. Although Arthur is credited with overseeing a reduction in unemployment to 7% and creating an unprecedented number of jobs, it is fair to say he had an easy wicket bat on.
There is a generation of Barbadian who has not had to experience the level of economic hardship currently affecting the country. This is exposed by the national conversations being generated daily in the different fora. We have two arguments we should not conflate in the ongoing debate.
There is casting blame on the political leadership AND Barbadians at large for not influencing and implementing effective economic and social models to navigate exogenous shocks which small open economies are most vulnerable.
Now that we have mired in economic and social stagnation for more than a decade with a contracting economy; high unemployment especially in the youth segment, high debt to GDP, crumbling physical infrastructure, National Insurance Scheme in the cross hairs, judicial system operating under the stress of a heavy backlog to name a few – there is the fierce urgency of now that should give wings to policymaking and the execution of projects by the government and other stakeholders in civil society.
There is who to blame AND there is the urgent need to address the problem, NOW.
Let us blame who we want for the problems facing us today if we must, although sensible citizens will admit there is enough blame to go around to explain the current state of affairs in the country. It does not change the fact Barbados finds itself staring down the barrel of economic hardship for years to come. With economic hardship there will be the concomitant social challenges. We have already started to see an increase in violent crime, scant regard for traffic laws, increase in the homeless and vagrancy to list a few.
Against this pessimistic background we have the unions making demands, individual citizens making demands, private sector making demands, all comers making demands. It brings to mind the saying ‘a house divided against itself, cannot cannot stand‘.
Barbadians have been labelled an intelligent people. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate the country is in a pickle which means citizens all are also in the same same pickle. It therefore requires our government, public officials AND the majority of the electorate to sing from the same song sheet to confront an unprecedented challenge. Some will say this it is a naive expectation because it is the state of mind of households feeding the emotions of individuals. How can they be expected to overcome an innate behaviour to survive by willingly feeding in to the macro picture?
A more responsible media will have to play a leadership role to promote awareness of the issues especially of the financial variety. It is regrettable the toxic level of political partisanship that has seeped into how we manage our affairs of late. The death of Patrick Hoyos has expanded the vacuum in traditional media on reporting financial matters. Political parties have not been able to appoint competent players to challenge government’s army of financial actors. Academics from the UWI, Cave Hill expected to interject with independent analysis have been largely ineffective.
There is the reality that even if there is a COVID 19 vaccine found next year the pandemic has hastened the widening of the systemic cracks in the way we have been governing the country. To summarize what the BU intelligentsia has been opining, we have to set realistic objectives, develop smart action plans and EXECUTE with the fierce urgency of now.
This week a strange development unravelled in the glare of the public. One minister stayed home and one minister went to…
The eagerly anticipated Integrity in Public Life Act 2020 failed to pass the Upper House again. If it did we understand it would have died this week with the prorogation of parliament. If the government is serious about enacting and operationalizing the failed Bill, we HOPE to see it listed on the Order Paper in September 2020 when the House of Assembly resumes after the break. Are we gluttons for receiving punishment from the political class.
What led us to this point civic minded Barbadians want to know? Was the debate designed and orchestrated to fail by hoodwinking independent and opposition Senators or were they willing participants in the show?
It is incomprehensible the government side – led by the experienced Senator Jerome Walcott and member of the kitchen cabinet – was not able to win the support of three Senators. The assumption is that Senator Lucille Moe is onboard with the Bill and not off sulking some where shirking the people’s business. Do we need to remind the political class and so called independents this Bill was recorded in the Chamber for three years before it died in the last session of parliament?
To this blogmaster’s simple way of thinking, enacting integrity legislation is expected to be a contentious undertaking in any place. It follows the citizenry of Barbados expect elected officials in a mature setting to negotiate a final position in the interest of who they were elected to (Rh) serve. We have been trying to pass this type of law since the mid 70s . Our failure to accomplish the task exposes the political class – read Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and Democratic Labour Party (DLP) – as a disingenuous cabal.
How in heavens name can the Minister of Health Jefferey Bostic make a decision out of caution to remain isolated after receiving a negative COVID 19 test AND the Chief Medical Officer (ag) issue a medical clearance to rookie Minister Lisa Cummins to attend the Upper Chamber where the Integrity in Public Life Act 2020 was about to be voted. The minister is the the de facto boss of the CMO for crissakes.
What was the point?
How is it connected?
Minster Lisa Cummins was instructed to apologize to public criticism. Not the way she wanted to start her tenure as a new minister of government but she appears to be a smart lady and will have to wrestle her conscience if being a politician allows her to the individualist she appears to be.
The blogmaster continues to reflect … if this pandemic does not disrupt what will?
Are you [blogmaster] cognizant that 35% of the audits signed-off and delivered by PwC here in the UK (of BRITISH HOME STORES #BHS fame) are patently deficient, as per the UK Regulator’s Report?
PwC has failed to meet the UK’s “Feather-Duster” standards, year after year, delivering poor audits and nothing happens to them while the UKGOV continues to award them contract after contract…
Is the same fiasco happening in Barbados and is the BIMGOV complicit as is the UKGOV in covering up for “DODGY COMPANIES” like Price Waterhouse Coopers?
As a concerned citizen, I am asking a key question given the current state of global corporatocracy in a bedevilled marketplace and its effects on small nation-states!!!
Terence Blackett – BU Family Member
Since the failure of the Port of Spain headquartered CL Financial and its affiliates across the region, belly searching questions have been asked about the quality of supervision being delivered by oversight agencies. Although another chapter in the story of CLICO Financial Holdings started last month with the arrest of former Executive Chairman Leroy Parris, the blogmaster is of the view more interesting chapters are to come.
In 2011 the Judicial Managers reported that CLICO assets amounted to $802 million BUT documentation available only supported $446 million dollars. The situation forced Barbadians to ask why were the oversight agencies apparently asleep on the job. What informed the Opinion Letters issued by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Of interest, what informed the management letters issued to the senior management of CLICO Barbados Holdings Limited in the years leading to the demise of the company. So many questions keep coming from Barbadians who have been left holding the bag for the hybrid bailout of former policyholders.
Another question the blogmaster keeps asking is who are the prominent citizens – including politicians – to successfully cash out policies (annuities) BEFORE the company cease doing business with the public.
The blogmaster agrees with those positing the view that several Boards of Directors of CLICO Barbados Holdings failed to discharge fiduciary responsibilities.
The blogmaster agrees with those positing the view that executive and senior management of CLICO Barbados Holdings failed to effectively discharge responsibilities.
The blogmaster agrees with those positing the view that the Supervisor of Insurance failed to discharge his fiduciary responsibilities.
Finally, blogmaster agrees with those positing the view that several oversight agencies (watchdog) agencies failed to discharge responsibilities required of them under law.
In summary it was a cohobblopot of missteps that straddled corruption by management to lack of enforcement of rules and regulation by regulatory bodies. It is no mistake the blogmaster has not mentioned the politician’s role in the CLICO mess. The laws of Barbados gives authority to regulatory bodies to act. They did not.
Against the preamble, the 2020 PwC LLP AUDIT QUALITY INSPECTIONreport issued by the Financial Reporting Council is instructive. It is an independent regulator in the UK and Ireland, responsible for regulating auditors, accountants and actuaries, and setting the UK’s Corporate Governance and Stewardship Codes.
An extract from the introductory statement of the report:
High quality audit is essential to maintain investor confidence by providing an independent, impartial view of a company’s financial statements. Poor auditing may fail to alert management, shareholders and other stakeholders to material misstatements (including those arising from fraud) or financial control weaknesses, in those cases where management have not identified or appropriately amended them. The combination of management not meeting their responsibilities in this respect and poor auditing could potentially put businesses and jobs at risk. High quality audit matters and we will drive audit firms to implement the necessary changes to reach the required standards.
Here is the summary assessment of PcW:
PwC overall assessment
We reviewed 17 individual audits this year and assessed only 11 (65%) as requiring no more than limited improvements. Of the 12 FTSE 350 audits we reviewed this year, we assessed only eight (67%) as achieving this standard.
The firm has taken steps to address the key findings in our 2019 public report, with actions that included increased resources and enhanced training. We have identified improvements, for example in the audit of revenue, a key finding last year. We also identified good practice in a number of areas of the audits we reviewed (including the use of internal specialists and experts) and in the firm-wide procedures (including initiatives to change behaviours relating to the challenge of management).
The most recurring findings that contributed to these results related to the challenge of management’s cash flow forecasts, primarily used in impairment reviews.
We have highlighted in this report aspects of firm-wide procedures which should be improved, including increasing the number and depth of in-flight reviews. PwC introduced its Programme to Enhance Audit Quality (“PEAQ”) in Summer 2019, to improve audit quality. The firm has implemented the plan on a phased basis to ensure that it is manageable and achievable. Given when the plan was introduced, it will not have had any impact on the audits we reviewed in this inspection cycle. Some of the initiatives will also take time to embed fully.
The overall inspection results remain unsatisfactory and we expect the firm to take specific action to address this. We will continue to review the progress of the firm’s PEAQ and plan to inspect a higher number of its audits proportionately in our 2020/21 cycle than at some other firms.
A reminder this is a review of an accounting house in the UK.
Why has the oversight role by accounting houses in Barbados not been subjected to the harsh glare of public scrutiny? Especially since the collapse of CLICO Holdings Barbados Limited?
There has been so much palaver about the pressing need to implement transparency legislation. Specifically a Freedom of Information Act. It is one of those issues political parties refer to on a campaign trail because it fits with the political rhetoric these days about promises to root out corruption in government blah blah blah…
Trinidad implemented a Freedom of Information Act in 1999 and serves as a model for Barbados to look to. What are the learnings so far? Read what Citizen Advocate Afra Raymond is saying. – David Blogmaster
…Trinidad and Tobago maintains that the principles of open government-accountability, transparency and citizen participation are essential for effective democratic governance…In the execution of good governance, efforts are currently underway to increase the availability of information about governmental activities, support civic participation, implement the highest standards of professional integrity throughout the administration and increase access to new technologies for openness and accountability…”
—These extracts are from the T&T official statement on the Open Government Partnership, which this country joined in 2013.
The ongoing Information War is increasingly driven by the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), which in 1999 created the right to obtain information held by Public Authorities, subject to certain limitations as to State security and private or commercial information.
The relationship between a bank and its customers is a useful analogy to understand these principles. The customer depositing money into her account does so for safekeeping and to earn some small interest. Although the bank is responsible for that money, at no point in time is it the property of the bank – indeed, it is a liability in the bank’s accounts. The bank merely has custody of that money and must follow the customer’s lawful instructions as to how that money is dealt with.
The FoIA at S.4 defines ‘official documents’ held by Public Authorities as – “…a document is held by a public authority if it is in its possession, custody or power…”.
ECONOMIST SIR FRANK ALLEYNE says one of the reasons why Barbados was in the current economic mess was the country’s failure to pay workers based on productivity. Sir Frank, one of the Freundel Stuart administration’s trusted advisers, said yesterday that had the various governments followed through on the productivity focus after the 1991 economic crisis, many of the problems the country faced might have been alleviated. […] Sir Frank said the centrepiece of the structural adjustment programme was productivity enhancement.
Prior to May 24, 2018 the constant national refrain was that the economic and social state of the country had deteriorated to an unacceptable level. This position was punished by the electorate in unprecedented manner with the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) being inflicted with a 30-0 defeat. The simple tranlation of the result, the people are not happy.
It should be of concern to sensible Barbadians everywhere the vitriolic and uninformed political debate which has emerged in recent years. It is a predictable debate and often sees a predictable response by incumbent governments. The politically aware have stated the primary job of a political party is to find a way to stoke popularity.
In a well meaning democracy the needs of the people should be the prime objective. There are listed as being able to promote unity and tranquillity in the domestic space, ensure justice for all, defense and safeguard the welfare and liberty of all the people – What is the purpose of government?. The opposite view is that no government is perfect in the vision or execution. How we govern is a man made construct and susceptible to the fallibility of man.
A couple weeks ago the blogmaster was motivated to write about the predictability to what has translated to a worrying crime situation. The same can be transposed to how we have and continue to govern ourselves. This blogmaster has been at the dashboard from 2007 and have been positioned to view the workings of political operatives having reason to interact with prime ministers, senators, ministers in government, surrogates, political talking heads et al. They operate with the same intent. They are driven by greed and an a destructive value system.
Barbados is a tiny island and if well managed with realistic objectives should satisfy the purpose of government. Instead we have allowed behaviours to be greatly influenced by popular culture. This has created the recurring dysfunction of government we have become mired. This week we learned about the many many PSV permits the outgoing government issued before demitting office -on the most profitable routes. A portfolio led by Michael Lashley. Prior, this blogmaster is aware of many PSV permits issued by Gline Clarke. We are aware there was financial benefit accrued to decision makers. This is one example of how greed and corruption as eventually led to an insolvent Transport Board taxpayers are left holdoing the bag.
Look in the mirror people!
Sensible Barbadians should have the capacity to view how systems of government are in decline across the globe. If we fail to show the courage to disrupt the current trajectory there is a predictable inevitability to how it will end for us.
In an situation where austerity measures have to be taken, one expects constituents being impacted to voice concern. One also expects the government charged with managaing the process to admoister it as humanely as practicable. As important is for civil society to be resonsible in voicing feedback.
It seems to this blogmaster we are in danger of being subsumed by a destructive rhetoric motivated by egocentric thinking.
The popular local reaction to the impending Integrity in Public Life legislation has been intriguing. Given the populist perception of politicians in general and our seeming inability to rein in the lawless conduct of some notorious sectors of society, cynicism naturally abounds. A fellow columnist and learned friend, in his column last week, categorized it as an attempt to legislate morality; what some lawyers call a brutum fulmen (empty threat). At one level, he is right. Integrity cannot be created by legislative fiat but rather resides in the heart of the individual to be exercised accordingly of his or her own free will. At the same time, however, there is a clamant need for such an injunction, if only to attempt to deter those who might be inclined to act contrarily. Stealing is also immoral, yet none denies the need for condign legislation in this regard.
In last week’s essay, we examined the declaration of financial affairs by specified persons in public life. We also noted the avenue for such an individual to put his or her assets in a blind trust to be administered by an independent trustee. The blind trust is not a device with which most Barbadians will be familiar but it is of critical importance to its validity that the cestui que trust or beneficiary retains absolutely no control over the trust assets during its subsistence. Hence, as I suggested textually last week, there appears to be a drafting error in section 28 (5)(b) that reads as follows in my copy of the Bill-
…income derived from the management of the assets is to be distributed, in accordance with the agreement, to him, his spouse or his children until he ceases to be a specified person in public life…
Arguably, any such distribution and, indeed, any such agreement would be antithetical to the concept of a trust and would amount to the mere transfer of property as a stakeholder. The word “not” should therefore be inserted between “is” and “to” in the first line.
Once the declaration has been duly made to the Commission or the Governor General as the case may be, that entity or its staff will examine it and “make such inquiries as it or he considers necessary in order to verify or determine the accuracy of the financial affairs, as stated in the declarations, of persons who are required to file declarations under this Act” –Clause 29 (b).
Where the Commission is satisfied that a declaration has been fully made as defined in Clause 31 (5), it will issue a certificate of compliance. Where it is not satisfied with the information given, however, it may report the matter to the appropriate Service Commission, board or other authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
There is a curious (I put it no higher than that) time bar for the commencement of an inquiry by the Commission in Clause 32 (5). According to this –“An inquiry shall not be commenced after 2 years from the date on which the person ceased to be in public life”.
As has already been pointed out elsewhere, this may amount to “a rogue’s charter”, whereby a specified person in public life may arrange for his or her financial affairs to be significantly altered to his or her advantage after retirement when he or she is no longer subject to regulation by the Commission. It might perhaps be more advisable here to have the specified person in public life report his or her financial affairs to the Commission after retirement for a period of five years or other sufficiently lengthy period or until death. Of course, what might give such a provision even more teeth is the enactment of civil forfeiture legislation, but that is purely a matter of legislative policy.
Where, in the opinion of the Governor General, further information is required from a member or staff of the Commission in respect of his or her declaration, the Governor General is mandated “after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, to appoint a fit and proper person as a tribunal to require the declarant to furnish such further information or documents and to conduct any inquiry, where found necessary, to verify the declaration, document or other statement filed with the tribunal”.
As with the inquiry pertaining to the affairs of a specified person in public life, there is also a time bar in respect of such an inquiry; this time five years after the date on which the declarant ceases to be a specified person in public life –Clause 33 (3). The reason for the difference in limitation periods here is not immediately apparent.
The Commission declarant is also differently treated in respect of the results of the inquiry. If the appointed Tribunal finds that the disclosure is full, he or she shall publish a statement to that effect in the Official Gazette and in a daily newspaper with nationwide circulation in Barbados, and reimburse the declarant for all expenses reasonably incurred by him or her in connection with the inquiry.
The Bill employs the concept of naming and shaming for the failure to file a required declaration in Clause 34 and also provides for the sending of a report to that effect to the appropriate Service Commission, board or authority and to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
As is traditional, the contents of the individual declarations are to be treated as confidential and it is an offence punishable on summary conviction to a fine of $ 20 000 or to imprisonment for 3 years to contravene this proscription.
The severity of this penalty contrasts with that in Clause 36 (1)(d) for an offence that seems much more blameworthy. There any person who fails, without reasonable cause, to comply with a direction of the Commission given pursuant to section 28(2) within the time specified by the Commission, or knowingly gives any false or incomplete information in the trust deed filed with the Commission, is guilty of an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of $15 000 or to imprisonment for one year or to both. [Added emphasis]
As one astute commenter on my columns has pointed out, this fine may be even less onerous comparatively than the much ridiculed fine of $2 500 was in 1929 under the Prevention of Corruption Act. It clearly needs to be more dissuasive.
The following entry by Citizen Advocate Afra Raymond should be of interest to civic minded Barbadians and in particular the BU family. He continues to prosecute the pillar issues which underpin the arrangement supporting the introduction of Butch Stewart’s Sandals to Trinidad and Tobago. In Barbados the models being used to promote the Hyatt and Hilton projects are not dissimilar.
What are the pillar issues?
The price citizens must pay to ensure our democracy is eternal vigilance.
The previous article updated readers on my attempts to obtain the Sandals Memorandum of Understanding for the proposed high-end, large-scale resort development in Tobago. That proposed development is said to be a significant part of our country’s diversification efforts so it requires our sober attention if we are to understand what is at stake.
The model for this project is one in which the State either pays for or guarantees the financing of the new resort. The State would pay for the cost of design, financing, construction, fitting and furnishing of the new resort, all to the standards set by Sandals. The completed resort will then be operated by Sandals under a management agreement. T&T is unique in the Caribbean in that our largest hotels were funded by Public Money with the operators working via Management Agreements.
Read full text of Afra’s prosecution of the Sandals matter in Trinidad – Sandals MoU II
“Today, no leader can afford to be indifferent to the challenge of engaging employees in the work of creating the future. Engagement may have been irrelevant in the industrial economy and optional in the knowledge economy, but [in today’s creative economy] it’s pretty much the whole game now.” – Professor Gary Hamel of the London Business School.
Every day since May 25th and the swearing in of Barbados’ eighth prime minister, ‘engagement’ has been palpably visible in Barbados. Engagement with citizens and stakeholders, individuals and groups, and with regional and international entities has been forthcoming. Furthermore, the feature of engagement also implies that the characteristics of a national leader matters. Professor Hamel, in connecting leadership and engagement, identified five paramount issues that are essential: values, innovation, adaptability, passion, ideology. Space does not allow for a full discussion on these dynamics, but enough will be said to indicate that even against simple explanations, the importance of these itemized basics to leaders’ engagement can be meaningfully understood.
In speaking of values, attention is drawn to the necessity to equip oneself with integrity and sound ethical practices, given the waning of public morality and reasonableness in the public sphere. Innovation connotes the individual responsibility to be objectively critical while being creative in determining alternatives and solutions. Adaptability is a necessary ingredient given that the world in which we live is dynamic and change is practically constant. Hence, there must be a strong sense of nimbleness, maneuverability, and a reluctance to be paralyzed by inertia.
The concept of passion is to ensure that our existence is inspired, and that our activities are motivated and honed to success by finding ‘new ways to rouse the human spirit’. The ideology that drives our efforts must be sufficiently compelling as to cherish our attained freedoms and the right of self-determination. Overall, national and civic leaders must never abandon the concert of principles that encourage trust, thus leading to the type of enhanced cooperation and providing for security, prosperity, well-being, and opportunity.
Today, the story that is unravelling in Barbados is inspiring. The one-month old Government is adaptive to the foremost interest of the masses and the leadership is deliberately informative and engaging. Prime Minister Mia Mottley has wittingly wrapped herself around the fundamentals of expressing a clear vision, implanting values, being creative, pliant, and inspired to achieve unprecedented successes at the individual and national levels.
Indeed, with the quest for good and effective governance, PM Mottley is focused both on people and on the policy process. The policy process may be defined as the administrative, organizational, and political activities and attitudes that shape the transformation of policy inputs into outputs and impacts. Thus, Barbadians are observing daily, the kind of public administration and policy processes that augur well for national development due to the deliberate method of engagement.
Public administration is described to be ‘the management of the whole set of government activities dealing with the implementation of laws and regulations, making and implementation of policies and decisions, and the provision of public services’. These things are crucial for Barbados. Thus, the practice of respectable public administration coincides with Prime Minister Mottley’s robust efforts to engage the national constituents for the good governance of Barbados. Miss Mottley demonstrates alongside her team, the active personification of a caring government that is responsive to the needs and expectations of the population.
Moreover, this new Barbados Government is showing deep commitment to reverse the vexing trends and mismanagement practices that festered under the previous administration. Transparency and accountability are clear signposts that the Mottley-led administration has chosen for meeting the day-to-day challenges which confront Barbados. Arguably blessed with the acumen of a communicative style, PM Mottley has been forthright in bringing the most crucial matters to the public’s attention. One example is the true state of the Barbados economy, and her government’s intent to restructure the national debt while repositioning itself for economic growth under an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program.
Additionally, PM Mottley understands the right for the people to have authentic information. Miss Mottley has already reformulated the Government Information System (GIS) whereby, there is the provision of adequate information relating to the governance of Barbados, and knowledge on the projects being undertaken by the various Ministries. The promise of greater citizen participation is encouraged with a system soliciting feedback and encouraging persons to submit their ideas to a listening Government. Dialogue as seen with the ‘Social Partners’ has drastically improved in mere weeks much to the satisfaction of representatives comprising government, business, and trade unions.
Notwithstanding, PM Mottley is also aware of the risks and perils that rest in the vacuum of ignorance and the shadows of speculation. Official reports such as those previously delivered by the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee, combined with unofficial statements reveal that in past years, Barbados’ institutions and the civil service increasingly suffered from system failure involving the following:
Inadequate attention to achieving government policy and delivering pre-determined goals and targets;
Inability to cope with the changing environment;
Needless and time-consuming procedures (over bureaucratization and duplication);
Poorly trained and/or demoralized staff;
Increasing incidence of corrupt and/or fraudulent practices;
And, inadequate and/or inappropriate skills among managers and staff.
Miss Mottley and her executive are today standing on the right side of law and ethics. Although raising several concerns about the misfeasance done in corridors of stealth, conjecture, shady communications and eleventh hour contractual arrangements, preceding May 24th, 2008, Miss Mottley recognises that it is ‘our responsibility’ to engage with the public and take the appropriate action in the name of resolute public administration and good governance.
To that end, the assertive prime minister instructed her Ministers and civil servants that all official governmental business must be conducted via the secure technological platform for which the Government has invested. This means that all Government business should be conducted via official emails only. Miss Mottley added that neither she nor her Ministers would be holding meetings to conduct the business of Government without public officers being present.
According to the confident leader, “the notion that persons can meet politically in an office to discuss the business of Barbados without public officers cannot happen because we put ourselves at risk of two things.” PM Mottley cited ‘allegations of corruption’ and the matter of who will ‘follow up’ from the proceedings of any held meetings. In her explanations, the popularly elected leader suggested that “if you are in meetings all day and you don’t have a public officer with you, who is going to follow up?” She elucidated on this point by highlighting that “the role of the public officer is to execute the policy and the decisions pertaining to policy that have been made.”
Therefore, it is a matter of practical purpose and safeguard that the presence of public officers become more pertinent in the scheme of transparency and accountability. PM Mottley’s engagement for purposeful public administration ought to be commended by the population. Nevertheless, it is important that we all remember the words of Hannah Arendt: “Political questions are far too serious to be left to the politicians.”
(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a part-time lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and a political consultant. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
One of the most foreseen risks in politics is that politicians will break their solemn promises to the electorate on matters pertaining to corruption. One of the most common perceptions of politicians is that they will eventually receive bribes.
To address this risk and perception, Solutions Barbados designed, perhaps the most effective anti-corruption policy, and all Solutions Barbados candidates agreed to pay a penalty of $500,000 if they voted against it. This amount was chosen because contractors have admitted paying this bribe amount to politicians before they were convicted.
There are many contractors and consultants who have been convicted for bribery on construction projects. A perusal of development bank Internet sites reveals a growing list of convicted consultants and contractors who are currently banned from tendering. At trial, the charged persons typically gave the same defence, namely, that paying bribes is a normal cost of doing business in developing countries.
Worldwide, it is estimated that between 10% and 30% of a construction project is a bribe. From my approximately 30-years of experience in the construction industry, there appears to be sufficient oversight on Caribbean Development Bank and Inter-American Development Bank funded projects to limit corruption. However, construction projects that are not tendered may attract corrupt activities.
Assuming the lowest 10% bribe on the value of untendered construction projects in developing countries, reveals a staggering, and unsustainable amount of bribe money, that the citizens are forced to repay. They are normally repaid through increased taxes.
I received some advice 3 years ago when I formed Solutions Barbados. I was informed that established parties in developing countries had one prime directive. It was not to look after the welfare of citizens. But rather, to protect all current and past politicians, from both established parties, from meaningful scrutiny. To ensure that no one would later develop a conscience, it was mandatory that everyone, without exception, had to get their hands dirty.
At each election cycle, each of the established political parties normally read a litany of accusations of corruption on untendered projects. Every year, the Auditor General provides a report that provides sufficient evidence for an investigator to easily follow-the-money. Yet, despite the accusations and the annual reports, no charges are ever made.
When the BLP provided their draft Integrity Bill on their website, with stated fines of $500,000, I was surprised. When the BLP politicians spoke about the fines publicly, and promised in their manifesto, on their sacred honour, that they would punish corruption, hold Ministers accountable and implement “stiff penalties” if elected, I was impressed. I determined that while hope for Barbadians was certain with Solutions Barbados, it may just be possible with an BLP administration.
The Integrity in Public Life Bill has had its first reading in the House of Assembly. The corruption fine has been reduced from the promised “stiff” $500,000, to an affordable (on a Minister’s salary) $10,000. So if they accept a $500,000 bribe, they can pay a paltry $10,000 fine and get to keep $490,000. I do not think Barbadians voted for that level of accountability. It should be noted that there are a set of loopholes in the Bill to almost guarantee that that a conviction for bribery is impossible. I will comment on those later.
Had the 30 BLP candidates signed a similar accountability contract to that of Solutions Barbados, then the total fine amount that would have been distributed to responsible registered charities across Barbados next month, would have been $15M. Given that those honourable persons in the house have accepted their national responsibility to set good examples for our children to follow, I fully expect the bill to be suitably amended during the second reading, by those who truly care.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com
So great was the degree of disgust felt with the governance of the outgone Democratic Labour Party administration that the vox populi determined at the recent general election that it should not even be permitted to constitute Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in the next Parliament. Nor did the electorate consider that any other group of individuals should do so.
This was an eventuality never contemplated by the framers of our Constitution either expressly or at all. The effect was to create a minor constitutional crisis. History will record that for reasons that up to now remain a matter of pure conjecture, His Grace the Bishop Joseph Atherley, who had campaigned as a candidate for, and as a member of the Barbados Labour Party, decided to break ranks with the governing administration in Parliament and to have himself appointed as Leader of the Opposition.
Though perfectly constitutional in my considered view, this has proven to be a most unpopular development. Some, including Professor Emeritus of History, Pedro Welch and others, have doubted its conformity with the constitutional text, arguing that a literal interpretation of the relevant provision contemplates a plurality of members in order for a parliamentary opposition and hence its leader to be lawfully constituted. Unless the literal interpretation leads to a manifest absurdity, the argument continues, then the words of the provision should be given their natural and ordinary meaning.
While I understand and respect the force of this view, the literal meaning of a legal provision must be enabled by the accepted canons of interpretation, including the one that the plural includes the singular as provided by section 4 of the Interpretation Act, Cap 1. Otherwise, as I have pointed out before, the Constitution would have effected the unlikely and patently absurd requirement that the Prime Minister and Governor General must always be male. The canon that “he includes she” is of the same genus as that of “the plural includes the singular” and the former is not to be treated as self-evident while the latter is reduced to the level of “quirkdom”. In any event, as I have also argued, the Governor General is obligated to act in this mater on her own judgment and so long as she was satisfied in her mind that Bishop Atherley was “best able to command the support of a majority of those members who do not support the Government”, or that he commanded the “support of the largest single group of such members who are prepared to support one leader” then the matter was put beyond pale.
However, the appointment has also proven to be unpopular on both sides of the local political divide. The Chairman of the Barbados Labour Party, the political party under whose aegis the Bishop contested the parliamentary seat in the recent general election, has publicly rebuked Bishop Atherley for his conduct in “crossing the floor”, and has called on the goodly MP to declare whether he has left the party or intended to do so, accusing him of dishonourable conduct. According to one report, Mr Payne is quoted as saying, “I was hurt and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Every night during the election campaign . . . nobody articulated these policies any better than the Honourable Member for St Michael West . . . and [he comes] to this House and asks questions like: If Mia’s plan is home-grown or facilitated by the IMF; if we sent signals to the electorate of the path ahead; will the Dems be investigated for malfeasance?”
The stridency of this reproach should have served to allay the suspicions of all but the most cynical, not a few in number, that regard the Atherley defection as nothing but a plot hatched by his party to ensure the absence of a parliamentary voice for the Democratic Labour Party for the duration of the current Parliament.
Some disfavour for the appointment has also come, quite naturally, from the DLP, which perceives itself as the rightful heir to the legitimate voice of parliamentary opposition once it does not possess the reins of government.
In my opinion, the Atherley appointment, though necessitated by the Constitution, is an inadequate and unsatisfactory replacement for an organized Opposition party that is backed by competent research and technical know-how so as to be instinctive presenters of alternative policy initiatives and critical assessors of official dogma. The electorate clearly thought otherwise.
In spite of his best efforts in this regard, Bishop Atherley will always be perceived to be either overly accommodating or traitorously hypocritical in his analyses of government policy in Parliament. This is but another instance where constitutional theory does not accord with practical political reality.
One matter that has seemingly not gained popular currency but that still concerns me however is whether a House of Parliament that is inadequately constituted is competent to pass any legislation. This is in reference to the Senate that passed the recent Constitution (Amendment) Act even though it did not comprise the number of members required by the Constitution to be regarded as the Upper Chamber in section 36(1). I commented on this earlier and wondered whether I was not caviling on the ninth part of a hair, but a discussion with a senior counsel last week confirmed to my mind that much might have been effected in the name of constitutional governance in recent weeks that required deeper and more careful thought.
PS I extend sincere condolence to the family and friends of Sir Fred Gollop who passed last week. I became acquainted with Sir Fred relatively recently when he joined me as the only Barbadians serving on the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission [RJLSC], the body charged with the management of the Caribbean Court of Justice. I found him to be, in Chaucer’s words, “a verray parfait gentilknight” and am not at all surprised at the multiple stated descriptions of him as “dignified”, “quiet”, “genial”, “humble” and “wise”. May he rest in peace.
I extend my sincere condolences too to the relatives and friends of another reader (!) of this column, the late Professor Emeritus of Education, Earl Newton, who recently shuffled off this mortal coil. Unfailingly polite, Earl was fiercely proud of his alma mater, Combermere. I recall that he and Professor Andrew Downes took me to task in the Senior Common Room one day when I dared to compare that school unfavourably with another. Rest in peace, Sir.
“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends [country]” (John 15:13) – Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
The unprecedented 30-0 victory by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) at the polls on 24 May 2018 created a Constitutional crisis UNTIL St. Michael West M.P. solved the problem by agreeing to be Leader of the Opposition.
Events to date confirm that the decimation of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) caught even the BLP leadership by surprise- tinkering with the Constitution – always a messy business – with a basket of pressing issues to confront from Day 1 is not what Prime Minister Mia Mottley has the appetite for at this time.
In the short term Atherley has made the sacrifice to cross the floor to assume the Leader of the Opposition role. His monthly salary will jump from 60K to 129K per annum but this is the smaller issue. He has averted the need for Mia to tangle with the issue of making deep amendments to the Constitution of Barbados at an early stage in her administration. Ask yourself, which member of parliament crosses the floor after one week of being elected without first declaring his grievances to his constituents and the wider public as a matter of courtesy?
Atherley’s decision to assume the Opposition role is obviously strategic. A ‘sympathetic’ leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly opens up a pathway for Prime Minister Mia Mottley to attack governance issues, more importantly it removes the nettlesome issue of making significant amendments to the Constitution at an early period in her tenure.
The blogmaster is pleased that the citizens of Barbados have a front row seat to observe the fragility of the democracy we practice exposed. It should be a learning opportunity we grasp with both hands. A past US President Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying that “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom”. Now more than ever in our history if the democracy we practice is to work as envisaged by the framers of the Constitution, people and stakeholder participation will be critical. The level of apathy and disaffection by citizens is well documented on BU’s pages.
We need to participate in our government in ways we have not done up to now. We hope Bishop Joseph will live up to the biblical meaning of his name.
Following the unprecedented Barbados Labour Party (BLP) 30-0 victory over the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the general elections, an often heard statement from both winning and losing candidates is that the people have spoken. But does an analysis of the election results support this claim?
According to CaribbeanElections website, there were 255,833 people registered to vote in the 2018 election. Combining data from VOB and Caribbean Elections, I have calculated that 153, 547 people actually cast a valid ballot. Of these, 112,249 cast a vote for the winning BLP. In other words, 44% of registered voters voted for the BLP while 56% did not. This could hardly be described as “the people have spoken”.
If David’s statement that “A manifesto is a bunch of promises designed to woo an ignorant electorate. The real business begins as far as managing the economy” is accurate, then the situation is even more dire. Since not only are we dealing with a government elected by a minority of the population but there is also the very real likelihood that many of those who voted for the winning party have been deliberately misled. It is difficult to understand why in the light of this reality, we continue to insist that we have in our country a democratic political system, by which I understand government of the people, by the people and for the people. Would it not be more accurate to acknowledge that we have a fundamentally undemocratic political system that we have inherited from slavery and colonialism but to which our fore-parents through numerous sacrifices have added some political rights that we enjoy, including universal adult suffrage?
From a constitutional point of view, sovereignty, or supreme power in this system, lies in the hands of the queen of England. Through the royal prerogative, she has the absolute power via her representative, the Governor General, to dismiss any government elected in Barbados and even to dismiss the entire parliament, as happened in Australia in 1975. Added to this is the fact that the promises made by the parties vying for power have no legal force and so once Bajans have marked their x on the ballot paper, there is nothing they can do to force a government to carry out its promises nor prevent it from doing things which it never mentioned in its election campaign. Through these arrangements and others, ordinary Bajans are left disempowered and marginalised from the decision making in the country.
Something else is needed. In the same way that previous generations of Bajans had to work out how to end the iniquitous system of slavery and then how to win various political and social rights, including formal political independence, our generation is faced with the task of shaping political arrangements in our country that empower the mass of the people and end our marginalisation from political power. We do not need to emulate anybody else’s model as we can think for ourselves. What if we ended the system of party government and political parties existed solely to politicise the society and to advocate for different approaches to solving the problems we face? What if the electorate itself set the government’s programme before each election through extensive discussion of the issues that needed to be dealt with, in this way becoming informed about the reality of the situation and the complexity of the problems that needed to be solved? What if the programme once agreed had the force of law and the government’s performance was continuously evaluated against the targets set within it? What if the candidates themselves were chosen not by political parties but by citizens bearing in mind the skills sets and experience that successful completion of the government’s programme would require? What if elected representatives were held to account for their performance by accountability committees made up of citizens with interest and expertise in particular areas? What if all government finances operated under a system of extreme transparency in which each citizen had a right to information on how all public money was collected and spent?
Twelve days before E-Day and the blogmaster anticipates the political temperature measuring the nasty will increase.
A noticeable feature of the campaign so far has been an ‘attempt’ by all the political parties to discuss issues. The DLP strategists have a right to determine the approach to win the general election. The plan to attack Mia Mottley we will see how the electorate responds. Overall the quality of debate coming from the political platforms has been poor.
As a keen observer of local affairs, it has become patently obvious the political class has been attracting individuals whose main reason for entering public life is to earn a salary and benefit from the influence and largess the political office will deliver for personal gain. Listen to the contributions being delivered by many of the candidates on the campaign trail and the intellectual capacity of many comes into question. The observation is not to suggest political candidates aspiring to public life must be MBA trained. What the blogmaster wants to see is a healthy mix of individuals who aspire to political office who are intellectually strong AND driven by by an unswerving desire to serve the public. The quality of wanting to serve the public is important because it will bring integrity to public office and ensure the political class- an important stakeholder in civil society- can lead by example.
Given the declining state of the economy, physical infrastructure, decline in the social fabric and so on the blogmaster anticipated the quality level of the political debate would be off the dial. Instead we have had to listen to a rehash of conversations past. We do not have the maturity to conduct national debates between the political candidates and parties. It is noticeable that a leading media house has created a forum for the parties to share their message with the electorate, for free, and the DLP has refused to participate. With two weeks to go the DLP has not shared its plans with the people to ensure there is a thorough discussion to inform final selection. The focus is on the politicking to inform strategy at the expense of ventilating the issues affecting the people and what is good to sustain success of a tiny island.
One useful discussion item that has emerged from the 2018 political campaign is the behaviour of political candidates. We have had to listen to David ‘pitbull’ Estwick calling the lord’s name on the platform. Steve Blackett calling Mia musty and so on. Donville Inniss and Stephen Lashley have been quick to defend the party position as groupthink in local party politics demands. Is this the political theatrics we want to encourage on the Barbados political scene? Do we not anticipate where promoting party colours will land us in the near future?
When the dust settles we have to admit the behaviour of political candidates will ultimate be determined by what the public demands. Auditor General reports, questionable decisions by the Director of Public Prosecutions, dysfunctional working committees of parliament have confirmed the inability of the public to hold the feet of pubic officials to the fire. It stands to reason we have a scenario playing out in Barbados where the tail is wagging the dog if we are to appreciate the workings of how our system of government should work.
We have had public officials refusing to attend sittings of the Public Accounts Committee and those who attended feeling no fear of discipline by giving muddy answers. There has been the case of a member of parliament brandishing a gun within the precinct of parliament, a Speaker of the House ordered by a justice of the High Court to repay a wheelchair bound septuagenarian his funds. The political class it is safe to conclude by the lack of urgency to advocate against matters mentioned and others are prepared to betray the basic tenets required of a public servant.
Another aspect of the landscape is the access to an abundance of cash by political parties to spread the ‘message’ in the silly season. It clearly points to what is known and that is all political parties have masters they must serve. We continue to fool ourselves that the bastardized model of the Westminster System inherited from a colonial past is relevant. It bears repeating, several layers within a Westminster System must cohesively function to deliver as originally designed. So far on the campaign trail we have listened to a tinkering of the issues located on the fringe, with 12 days to go who knows what the morrow will bring.