Day after day Barbadians fault the Freundel Stuart Administration for its lapses and failures in relation to the management of the Barbados economy — and often with justification. As tough as governing in the current circumstances might be, a government must still act, even when its actions are not necessarily popular.
We make the above statement merely to set the tone for what we are about to say, because we believe it is important that we recognise that for all its faults, in many ways the Government is not to blame alone for where we are today — we, as a society need to start shouldering a lot of the responsibility.
In Barbados, two of the biggest challenges we face relate to our declining level of productivity and the falling quality of service we offer each other and those who visit us for pleasure or business. We could be wrong, but we have never seen Prime Minister Freundel Stuart sitting in an office chatting away on the telephone or “doing” his nails while customers line up at the counter awaiting service.
Neither we can’t recall hearing Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, Minister of Health John Boyce or Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite answering the telephone when we called some business and treating us as though we were disturbances to their on-the-job relaxation.
Government may have a key role to play in setting the policies and examples, but those of us who make up the wider society still have to decide we need to get up from our false beds of comfort and recognise that if we don’t act swiftly we are going to be digging ourselves out of a deep hole for a long time.
And this is where our trade unions continue to fail us and their membership by not espousing the need for a change in attitude of workers at all levels, including management, with the same vigour with which they shout about perceived infractions by the employer.
We don’t know the details, so we comment with some reservation, but again we can’t help but harbour more than a pinch of suspicion at a scene we observed just yesterday. The Barbados Water Authority was connecting water to a soon to be completed commercial building in Warrens, and the first crew did not show up until most workers in the area were heading home.
By 8 p.m. there were five trucks (and we took that to mean five crews), one tractor and compressor on the scene. Does it require so many workers and so much equipment to make a water connection? And why did the job begin in the late evening?
Some may suggest that the late start was to avoid inconvenience to businesses in the area that would have resulted from a water outage earlier — and that would be reasonable. But does that not support the point long opposed by the union that an entity that functions on a 24 hour bases should not be subject to an overtime regime after “normal” working hours?
We look forward to being compelled to apologise to our readers by an announcement by the BWA that there was no overtime associated with this job.
This is just an example of the problem we face as a nation. With all the communications technology around us we still seem unable to accept that the world around us has changed dramatically and is continuing to change, while we want to do things the way we always have.
Here’s some breaking news: There is nothing special about us in today’s world. The rich are not going to flock here with their billions to invest just because we are called Barbados! Tourists are not going to hop on to planes in their thousands and fly here just because we call ourselves a tropical paradise! The Trinidadians, Jamaicans, Americans and Europeans are not going to throw open their ports and welcome our goods because they are stamped “Made in Barbados”.
We are living in a dream and somebody needs to wake us up — fast.
We are not seeking to absolve the Freundel Stuart Administration of its responsibility where it has not acted appropriately, but we dare say that all the talk about the need for layoff in the public sector would be less biting if our productivity was where it should be.
We doubt that those who manage personnel records in the public or private sector can point to a decline in sick leave by workers even as we struggle as a country to maintain jobs. We doubt very much that there has been any jump in output in any sector today compared with a decade ago, even though we all must know that our survival depends on it.
We know for sure that if a shipping container arrives at Business “A” or “B” this evening and it is to be cleared beyond a certain hour the customs officers must be paid overtime by the business — an imposition by an agency that operates on a 24 hour bases.
If that container contains food, wood, plants or certain other types of items then the presence of Port Health and Port Quarantine personnel is also required, again at an additional cost to the importer.
We’re doing business in Barbados in 2013 the same way we did it in 1973 — we must all be stark raving mad!