A call has been made for a task force to guide Barbados on the path of
national transformation, in light of the economic and other challenges which it now faces.
Former diplomat Dr Peter Laurie told the second People’s Assembly hosted
by the Barbados Labour Party at the Christ Church Foundation School last
night, that if the country was to flourish in the competitive global economy of
the 21st century, it needed to transform the way business was done.
“Government, as presently constituted, including both the political and the
bureaucratic directorates, can no longer govern as if the rest of the society
did not exist. We need, in general, to create more participatory forms of
governance. Otherwise it is like trying to drive a six-cylinder vehicle on two cylinders.
“We need a public sector that acts quickly and efficiently, a business
community that is more innovative and entrepreneurial, workers who are
more productive, and a society that is more self-reliant,” he suggested, noting
that this was where the task force would come into play.
“The Social Partnership, in meaningful consultation with the Leader of the
Opposition, should appoint a special [body] of twelve of the best and brightest
to guide the process of national transformation. Persons chosen should serve voluntarily (that is, without pay).
“There are lots of bright, innovative women and young people out there
who tend to be grossly under-represented on bodies of this type.
“The task force should be assisted by a small operational unit headed by a
qualified CEO appointed by and responsible to the task force. This unit should
work closely with such organizations as the National Initiative for Service
Excellence, the National Productivity Council, the Office of Public Sector
Reform, and the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies,” he
said, while explaining that it would be accountable to the Social Partnership,
and, through the prime minister or a minister designated by him, to the Cabinet, Parliament and the public.
Laurie noted that funding for the task force should be sought primarily from
the international financial agencies, and a public awareness campaign should be launched at the same time as the task force.
This would be in order to galvanize the public into action and get them to become involved in the process of change.
“This action-oriented body should be tasked with two fundamental objectives. [One of] crafting a model of governance of Barbados for the 21st century; and of mapping a trajectory for national transformation.
“On the issue of governance, the best approach is to start with a clean slate and, without reference to existing governmental institutions, brainstorm and decide in 12 weeks what precisely should be the purposes and functions of a government in Barbados in the 21st century; by what entities those functions should best be carried out; and how these entities should be structured.
“When the task force has come up with a blueprint, and has consulted widely on it (another six weeks, say), then it should compare it with the existing public service and draw up a plan for getting from here to there. The blueprint would have to be approved by the Social Partners and ultimately by Parliament,” he said.
Laurie went on: “The second objective of the task force would be to come up with a programme of national transformation with specific targets in all three sectors: Government, business and trade unions. The programme should be planned within a time frame that allows both fundamental restructuring, and the achievement of early results by addressing some immediate and well-known problems capable of quick solutions.
“And we don’t have to reinvent the wheel: there are many public documents gathering dust that are teeming with excellent ideas: the reports of various commissions and the National Strategic Plan, for example.
“Some of the targets [might be], bear in mind these are just suggestions. By 2020, reduce the size of the public service by 25 per cent. This might be achieved by hiving off activities to the private sector, a recruitment freeze, not filling vacant posts, redeployment within the public service, and voluntary retirement schemes by which staff in designated grades could leave the civil service voluntarily with immediate retirement benefits and compensation. There need not be any mandatory layoffs.
“By 2020 cut in half the average time it takes to issue a permission/approval or to deliver a service. This might be achieved by ministries/departments making greater use of information technology, re-engineering and streamlining service delivery processes, and setting up virtual networks of all players involved in each regulatory or service delivery process. Every citizen should have the right to know exactly at what stage his or her application is at all times,” Laurie suggested. (RG)