When Barbadians, particularly those who are not schooled in the particulars of economics and finance, ponder on the possible implications of the decision of Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the island’s credit rating, we suspect that they will invariably try to wrap their thoughts on issues of money. And that’s reasonable, because whenever we have had reason to listen to any presentation that included Standard & Poor’s or credit ratings, it has always been centred on money. But this week’s events, in our opinion, have raised far more fundamental issues than naked money. In fact, we believe that today’s contribution by one of our Friday columnists, Donna Every, The Buck Stops Here, on page 41 should be carefully read by all with access to this publication. It speaks clearly to what we are discussing here. What the S&P decision clearly states is that we cannot continue with business as usual — on any front. Our very system of governance is in need of a major overhaul. Understand us clearly, as the persons in charge of our country, the men and women who make up the present Democratic Labour Party Government must take responsibility for where we now find ourselves. The buck stops with them! But when all is said and done, we all must take responsibility for our present circumstances because for too long we have all agreed that Barbados must change, but we have chosen to continue doing the same thing for years. We have talked about a republican system of government versus the monarchy, but chose to reduce it to some silly argument about whether or not the queen in London should be our head of state. In the end it came down to a sentimental discussion. However, it ought to have been a serious discussion about the very instruments of governance we employ. Again we have from time to time raised questions about whether we are being served effectively by the current
structure of our Parliament with two houses that include a Senate whose utility is highly questionable — even if the same can’t be said for those who hold the title of senator. But still we continue with business as usual.
So some of the country’s best minds have from time to time occupied our Upper House, but in a system that allows for very limited contribution where it really matters.
Now add to that a Westminster system of government informing activities in the House of Assembly, but in a manner where great minds will not work together on issues of importance to the very survival of our people because it is not in the party’s best interest.
We refuse to alter a system where we have no genuine recall of an elected Member of Parliament, no matter how poorly he or she performs; we hold on to a system were a Prime Minister has almost absolute power, but where the people are not the ones to place him or her in that position; we talk and talk but allow our MPs to operate in the absence of integrity legislation; and then reward even the worst of them with handsome pensions at an age where everyone else has to sweat daily for his or her bread.
And on top of all that we are now breeding a new class of people who seem to believe that once they have opted for a certain type of work, they have the gift of gab, or have a certain ancestry, they have some automatic and unquestionable right to be an MP. They have little genuine interest or background in community service and are not even remotely familiar with the people or communities they believe they must represent.
Our message is quite simple: If we don’t, as a country, decide now that we are going to make some radical changes in the way we conduct our business, we are doing to discover that in the years ahead Standard & Poor’s will show up at our doorsteps in many different ways. Changing parties and MPs periodically will not do it!