Senator Dr. Frances Chandler usually calls it as she sees it.
And more often than not, she calls it correctly, unapologetically and apolitically.
Indeed, the nationalistic agronomist is often a breath of fresh air in most debates in and out of our Upper House of Parliament.
She says that too many in the public service are not earning their keep and in lots of instances simply doing little or nothing. As to be expected, and obviously within their mandate, the National Union of Public Workers has been quick to rush to the defence of workers. The union’s contention is that loiterers in the public service are in the minority and that most are conscientious workers.
Of course, neither Senator Chandler nor the NUPW has brought any empirical evidence to support either the accusation or the defence. But admittedly, it is almost impossible to provide that empirical evidence. Yet, there is actual evidence to support both arguments.
The development of Barbados has not been accidental and the public service, as well as the private sector, has played a major part in the advancement of this nation and is to be complimented.
But the fixing of burst mains by the Barbados Water Authority a week, two weeks or more after they are first reported is not fiction. Police officers turning up at the homes of complainants 24 to 72 hours after reports to them have been made is not fiction.
Waiting in the Accident and Emergency Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital without receiving medical attention upwards of 12 hours (or sometimes dying) is not fiction.
Entering Government departments to conduct business only to be met with sloth, indifferent attitudes or minimal staff is not fiction. Telephoning Government offices and listening to answering machines for more than 20 minutes, or getting neither human nor mechanical response is not fiction.
Encountering some uniformed public workers in bars around Bridgetown, Oistins or Speightstown on the “final seconds” of two-hour “lunch-breaks” is not fiction.
Waiting for medical reports from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for more than a year is not fiction.
Enduring a two to four year wait for an accident report from the Royal Barbados Police Force is not fiction.
Instances of prisoners being remanded for more than five years before their cases are started are not fiction.
Reports of civil cases taking between five to 15 years to be adjudicated are not fiction.
Government’s collection agencies failing to collect millions in VAT, land tax, court fines and other state charges, is not fiction.
The litany of previously reported woes in the provision of services has as its obvious nexus the functioning or non-functioning of human-beings employed by the state.
At a recent panel discussion titled Unlocking the Potential of Public Service Reform for the 21st Century, director of the Office of Public Sector Reform Michael Archer, in response to criticisms of the Public Service, said many of the things complained of in his sector were also prevalent in the private sector. He spoke about the political will and the serious effort needed to address the problem. But the problem is endemic and will not be solved by the political will.
It is highly improbable that the same society that produces workers for the public sector will produce a totally different breed for the private sector. It therefore comes down to changing attitudes and acculturation. Job insecurity in the private sector should not be the motivator to produce, nor should job security in the public sector provide the impetus for indifference.
The advent of entities such as NISE and NEEX, and whatever else, does not have genesis in our workers being highly productive or working to their optimum in the service of self, company or country. There are cultures, such as China’s, where productivity equates to patriotism. We are light years from that.
Case in point. We often complain about our massive food import bill and we pay lip service to reducing it. Senator Chandler recently opined in the Senate during debate on a resolution to note and approve Protocol VI of the Social Partnership that “some good starvation in Barbados” might be necessary for people to get back to agriculture.
Government Senator Jepter Ince walked out during her presentation in a huff and a puff. Government Senator David Durant distanced himself from her comments. Sadly, but not surprisingly, they both missed the point. The thing about the ostrich is that the more it buries its head in the sand, the more it bares its tail to the entire world.
So much for political will.