Archive | December, 2009

Fear or Taking the Lazy Way Out?

31 Dec

We have heard it said time and time again that democracy is about the people. We have also heard the comment, especially from amongst the young that their vote does not make a difference, that all of the politicians are the same. Yet others would say that a particular politician or the Government has not done anything for them – even if you were to provide perfect health care and education the refrain would still remain. So what do Barbadians expect in return when they vote – good governance or material rewards?

Arguably the population of Barbados has not taken on its full responsibility for the development of their democracy. Currently most Barbadians vote when elections are called. After that the democratic process seems to come to a halt except for private conversations about whether or not the Government of the day is doing a good job.

In most conversations regarding issues that Barbadians consider important the conclusion tends to be about what the Government should do. In such a case there are hardly specific recommendations, just a feeling – sometimes unfortunately, based on nothing. It is hardly ever about what the individual can do or what a group of individuals might be able to do.

One must wonder as to the reason for this. Since we are unaware of any survey done on this point it is really left to speculation. Barbadians do seem to get a great deal of exhilaration and sense of accomplishment from merely expounding on a number of issues without actually doing anything about them. We must also acknowledge here that taking these discussions to a wider community through the Internet does not solve the problem of inaction.

Some say Barbadians fear taking action, others say we are taking the lazy way out. Perhaps it is where we are as a nation – perhaps as a young democracy we can not help but display a level of political immaturity.

How can Barbadian citizens play a more powerful role in our democracy?

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“YES” to a Non-Partisan Dialogue

28 Dec

From your posts it has become clear that many of you feel that there is space for a non-partisan dialogue in Barbados. There were some misgivings expressed, but only a few. These misgivings had to do with the fact that many of the blogs and call in programmes are popular because they attack people or parties. Even though this might be the case we have not heard a clamour for this type of dialogue.

Our objective is not to become the most popular but to create quality content for purposeful discussion. We do not want to create an environment where any individual feels harassed off the site. We want to give those that follow this site enough information to drive their own discussions. We want to contribute to an open debate of the most important issues in Barbados. We wish to do so without looking back for the purpose of apportioning blame but rather for the purpose of seeking solutions.

We are looking forward to your making a contribution to the democratic process which will result in a meaningful contribution to the development of our country.

There have been some suggestions as to how we can broaden the dialogue. We look forward to hearing from you so that we can take the next step. We welcome all participation.

Even in death corruption alive & well!

27 Dec

Further to our story concerning corruption in Barbados and an outline of the known instances of corruption another one has been drawn to our attention. This is the case of the sale of burial plots in Barbados that are NOT FOR SALE! The story was published in the Nation Newspaper of December 27, 2009. This matter is now in the hands of the police. Apparently the matter was drawn to the attention of the Government department responsible because some graves were sold twice. It would seem that burial plots have been sold for $1,800 to $2,000, but since 1974 the sale of burial plots at Government owned cemetaries had been prohibited.

This is further evidence of how corruption is beginning to affect the ordinary members of the society in the most basic of transactions. It would seem as though this type of activity is becoming widespread. Is there any Barbadian that feels that this should not be brought to an end? Even if the individuals involved in this scam are brought to justice, will the victims actually get their money back? This is highly unlikely.

We commend the Nation Newspaper for their “investigative journalism”, however we wonder where the investigative team has been in the wake of a number of other corrupt activities that have been going on in Barbados for several years. Many of these are an open secret. Why are these not being exposed? Why is no one complaining?

There is a great possibility that the purchasers might have thought they were engaged in a legitimate transaction. However one can not help but wonder whether this particular case of bribery and corruption was brought to light because the “purchasers” did not get what they bargained for. The individuals that pay ridiculously high prices for licences and non-government fees to get applications approved, perhaps get what they bargained for so there is no need to complain.

This is a big problem. We have to stop comparing ourselves with other countries and stop this trend before it becomes an epidemic. All of us can help by saying “no” to these corrupt practices now. Let us get some more reports to the Fraud Department!

Corruption as a way of life

26 Dec

Barbados is ranked at number 20 out of 180 countries on the corruption perception index on Transparency International. Barbadians have taken some comfort in this. They should not. There is evidence everywhere that corruption is on the increase in Barbados. It is a fact that corrupt acts are fast becoming the rule and not the exception. What examples of corruption have Barbadians become aware:

1) Facilitating access to duty-free purchases for consumers who under the law are not entitled to such concessions.

2) Inability to have applications dealt with in a timely manner or at all in some Government departments without paying a sum to an identified individual.

3) The sale of licences at very high prices over and above Government prescribed licence fees.

4) Benefits for individuals based on party support alone.

5) Non-political opportunities being refused individuals that are believed to be non-supporters of the Government of the day.

6) Suppliers deliberately stifling businesses by dramatically changing credit terms.

Corruption is a cancerous growth. If it is not addressed it will eventually cripple Barbados. At the moment:

1) Corruption is being seen as normal especially amongst young people; it is being seen as a necessary part of business.

2) The cost of providing services has increased. For example most individuals know of the remarkable difference in the official Government fee for certain licences and applications and the real cost.

3) Some business professionals are seeing business fall off because some applicants have the view that they need only pay a sum to “someone” and really do not need any professional advice.

4) Some talented Barbadians have expressed the view that they might have to leave the country to make a living elsewhere.

5) Poor workmanship where jobs/contracts were not awarded on the basis of the ability to deliver a quality service.

We have seen the signs develop in other countries with disastrous consequences. Must Barbados travel the same road or can we turn back? What can we do to address this trend?

Implementing transparency, effective systems and rules are key to this effort. This is now easier because of access to computer technology. Is there any reason why all applications should not be online? Is there any reason that the treatment of every application should not be published?

We can no longer simply rely on having “good” people in key positions.

This is fast becoming a big problem, what can citizens do about it?

Is a Meritocracy Wishful Thinking?

23 Dec

There are few that can argue that Barbados has not done well over the centuries, even before it became a nation. Its favorable topography and climate has always given it an advantage over some of the other islands in the region. Barbados is the most developed developing country in the world and Barbadian leaders do on occasion speak of Barbados achieving developed country status. What is stopping us from getting there? Politically it is easier to assert that Barbados is still a poor developing country. Politically it is not easy to talk about personal responsibility, even though personal responsibility is the underpinning of an effective democracy.

Implementing sound macro economic policies might actually be the easy part. The other part has to do with the policies that people are prepared to accept that will touch and concern them personally. When individuals dream about a meritocracy it is more than just a dream about fairness. The truth is that a society can not really strive if it does not put its best people forward on every occasion. Barbados is still a society that does not ask the question about ability first. The first questions are still about who you are and where you come from. Even in sports this might help to determine whether you succeed or not.

Michael Porter has studied the issue as to why some nations succeed and continue to prosper and why others do not. This is his view:

“In the modern global economy, prosperity is a nation’s choice. Competitiveness is no longer limited to those nations with a favourable inheritance. Nations choose prosperity if they organize their policies, laws and institutions based on productivity. Nations choose prosperity if, for example, they upgrade the capabilities of all their citizens and invest in the types of specialized infrastructure that allow commerce to be efficient. Nations choose poverty, or limit their wealth, if they allow their policies to erode the productivity of business. They limit their wealth if skills are reserved only for a few. They limit their wealth when business success is secured by family connections or government concessions rather than productivity.”

Michael E. Porter
The Competitive Advantage of Nations

It would be interesting to contemplate where Barbados stands in all of this. The issue is not really about whether people will continue to do each other favours. Individuals will do so. It however can not be an unwritten economic policy. It can not be the strategy upon which the nation will base its continued development.

Is there room for a non-partisan dialogue?

20 Dec

Naturally we believe that the answer to this question is “yes”. Nevertheless it is a legitimate question that must be raised. Even though the answer might be “yes” the further question might be the extent to which this is possible. There might be room but not very much room since the two major political parties (the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party) have dominated the political dialogue. The People’s Empowerment Party still has somewhat of a voice and can bring a different perspective to issues. The idea of having a non-partisan dialogue is nothing new.

Countries around the world have taken this further step in developing their democracies. There is always an attempt nevertheless to classify the organisation based on an assessment of its political leanings whether right, left, centre or any number of other classifications. This might not be unfair as it is man’s natural instinct to categorise most things.

Some fear that the political tolerance for which Barbados has been recognised could be eroded as the underpinning of politics becomes more strongly linked to personal, individual, material benefits and not benefits to the broad masses of people. In such an environment the ordinary people suffer most.

There is a concern too about whether the best people will come forward to serve in the future. Let us hasten to add that “best” is not defined by personal educational achievement but the capacity to contribute to the development of the country. Nowadays the conversation seems to get bogged down in the past – past mistakes or past achievements. As countries emerge from this recession and enter on a new path of growth, much will change.

ezdiyelectricity.comBarbados like many small, developing countries needs to have a political dialogue focussed on development of people and how those people earn a living. The two together! This will be largely a dialogue about the future, not about the past. We need and deserve a robust non-partisan dialogue aimed at positioning our country for the future.

Are Barbadians serious about the environment?

20 Dec

We have seen many efforts made at promoting sustainability in Barbados. We have seen the efforts at using solar energy – although some would argue that that is an old victory. We are also seeing renewed efforts at recycling. Last Week the world met in Copenhagen to discuss climate change.

It raises the inevitable question as to what this issue means for Barbados and what we have been doing. Afterall did Barbados have a position when it went to Copenhagen? A little history. On April 18, 2008 the CARICOM Secretariat issued a press release announcing the agreement for a common approach to the CARICOM Environment & Natural Resource Policy Framework. Over the years CARICOM has been discussing the environment. There have been calls for additional resources and additional work to be done in this area. CARICOM was concerned in 2008 that the individual member states were developing their own environmental policies and that a coordinated approach was needed.

Well there are two things. CARICOM countries often feel that they must proceed on their own in order to see results. Also from the perspective of funding international organisations and funding agencies do prefer to work with CARICOM as a group and not as individual countries.

On November 17, 2009 ahead of the discussions at Copenhagen CARICOM unveiled a campaign called 1.5 degrees C to Stay Alive. CARICOM comprising several small island states has concerns about the impact of climate change on these countries. These include the destruction of coral reefs, excessive flooding, more intense hurricanes and the destruction of eco systems.

It is left to be seen how CARICOM countries and Barbados more specifically will respond to the committments made at Copenhagen.

The discussions were saved from collapse when five of the largest countries in the negotiations were able to broker a settlement. These included the United States, China, India, South Africa and Brazil. There has been a great deal of criticism of the agreemen. There is no binding agreement. There is no committment to cut carbon emissions. There is however a commitment to keep global warming to 2°C or less. US$30 billion in funding has been put on the table. Funding has been promised before but it has been non-existant or slow in being disbursed. There is now a requirement for transparency countries must document their committment and their progress in meeting them.

This is an important issue for Barbados both in the short and the long term that requires us to be serious.