Explaining the LOST DECADE

Posted as a comment by Greene to the Government Using Throne Speech to Signal Fresh Guard

(minor edits by the Blogmaster)

Over the years and with experience, I have found that humans don’t analyse events properly and thoroughly. They come up with excuses and not the proper aetiology for why events occur. Thus they solve for the wrong problems or don’t learn from past events making the same mistake over and over- a recurring loop so to speak.

Take for example the so called lost decade between 2008 and 2018 where it is often bruited about without proper analysis that BIM lost its way. Because that was the period BIM’s economy plunged in line with the economies of most countries- a period roughly between 2008-2016 known as the great recession, a PM who was not a great communicator when not on the campaign trail, and where the populace believed that Govt MPs got rich beyond the salaries of their offices.

However, if the period prior to this is examined, you would find that on the face of it the economy was travelling at warp speed in line with but lagging the tremendous economic growth that visited the rest of the world. We had an effervescent PM perhaps because of the economy and he enjoyed great political freedom and gravitas, MPs got rich over night with little push back from the citizens because everyone was in an economic state of euphoria. This for the most part was the period between 1994-2008.  There were many scandals from the GEMS project to Greenland to Hardwood to the Kensington Oval redevelopment to the Barrack Building to EDUTEC not necessarily in that order and that is only a few. What really marked that period for me was there was no attempt at building a sustainable black economy. Government’s capital projects were mostly, if not all routed towards the traditional money class Bajans who do not reflect the racial make up of most Bajans.

I have always contended that that period signalled the no return point for BIM. The desecration of the West Coast, the sell off of Government lands, the borrow and spend policies by Government, followed by the borrow and spend habit of the population at large, the rise of land prices and other prices with no comparable rise in salaries, the stupid mantra of land is only an asset and the push to make BIM a first world country built on credit and piss poor laws and enforcement thereof, were a milieu for disaster.

It was a slow burning crisis that just needed a catalyst to set events in motion as BA Turner theorised in his 1978 seminal work called Man-made Disaster as distinguished from natural disasters although it is arguable whether there is a difference. He posited that all disasters have an incubation period where latent pathogens go unnoticed or if noticed excuses are created, erroneous analysis made, or cultural habits prevent proper fixes

All the signs were there of system failure- huge national and personal debt, corrupt politicians, a population spending beyond its means, weak legal infrastructure, dilapidated island wide physical infrastructure, a failing unreformed civil service, an uncaring and expectant public, an unchecked criminal underbelly, and a greedy private sector.

Then entered a deep recession as I mentioned above (2008-16) and the flaccid DLP regime after Thompson. It failed to arrest the slide if it could have. It is my contention that would have called for a PM and Cabinet with huge cajones to effect systemic changes that were needed and long overdue, an understanding civil service and a pliable private sector and public. None of that was present and none of that could have been, given the heady days of the previous years and the expectations that those days would continue and hence the deep disappointment that they didn’t.

That the DLP didn’t recognize this pending disaster or if it did, did nothing, is what Turner (1976) called rigidity in organisations, inability to handle multiple issues, ignoring warning signs, and a tendency to minimise problems that often negatively impact disaster mitigation. And so the DLP was blamed for the drastic economic slide of Barbados and was soundly embarrassed at the polls. It did not win a seat and won 1 or 2 constituency voting boxes.

Returning to Normalcy
The present Govt headed by MAM labelled that period the lost decade and every ill that BIM ever suffered was located there. No attempt was made to differentiate the period of PM Thompson from the period of PM Stuart and none was made to examine whether they inherited any problems from the previous administration. Perhaps because some of the new MPs were in Cabinet in the 1994-2008 period, it was enough to give Bajans a place to direct their anger at the failings of the DLP. As Drubek (1994) contends, the politics around accountability substitute systemic failures for individual guilt. And as Boin (2005) points out, even when this is known, leaders spin this information to assign blame away from them-selves.

From deliberately defaulting on the debt repayment, to BERT, to BOSS, to BEST and the rest, MAM and the BLP have sought to return to normalcy, if normalcy can be defined as the period between 1994-2008. They have been diverted partially but not entirely by; COVID, legal missteps (ACOP bungling and the failure to pass Anti Corruption law in the Senate), and policy issues (Ministry of Education numerous faux pas).

That leads into the question of capability to solve problems. Capability in government often relates to political leaders and government department possessing the technical and financial, organizational and policy wherewithal to respond to the matters at hand (Cigler, 2007). Effective response may be hampered by lack of delegation, spotty decision-making and inadequate communication (Paton and Jackson, 2002). Furthermore, apathy (political and public) to pending problems, budgetary restraints and organizational dysfunction militate against disaster planning and response (Drabek et al., 1981). It is a matter of argumentation whether such issues depict the present BLP under MAM

To the very present
So here we are after a Throne Speech that inter alia, sees BIM becoming a Republic next year, civil unions for gay couples, and a host of financial manoeuvrings which are yet to be digested fully by the public. Suffice it to say the prospect of civil unions is an easier sell than gay marriage, and becoming a Republic are the topics occupying the minds of Bajans. Some ask whether this Thorne Speech hullabaloo was a reset or more hot air from a PM who loves to talk but delivers very little in terms of substance. I will state definitely I don’t see a reset. Moreover, the question that remains is, are we in a recurring loop?