The Social Partnership, established during the economic crisis of the early 1990s to facilitate meaningful dialogue between Government, the private sector and the trade union movement with a view to solving national problems, is not working effectively and not delivering results as it should.
These sentiments were expressed last night during a Central Bank-sponsored televised panel discussion on the performance of the Barbados economy. The panel comprised an academic in the discipline of economics, representatives of the private sector and the news media and Dr DeLisle Worrell, the Governor of the Central Bank.
Executive Director of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) Lisa Gale said two of the biggest challenges facing the private sector and the general public were the lack of communication from Government on the outcomes of various measures it has implemented, as well as delays getting goods cleared at the Customs & Excise Department.
“On one hand, we take the blame for not giving as much information as a private sector as it relates to data, but there is also the other information, public stewards, you are stewarding an asset that does not belong to you. It belongs to the public of Barbados and therefore tell the story,” said Gale.
She added that in many instances, “good stuff” is happening within Government but it was not being properly communicated. “Your communication strategy tells me what is happening and if I don’t know, then I am only going to assume,” she added.
Gale complained that the BCCI had “a significant challenge” as it related to the Customs & Excise Department. She explained that businesses were having difficulties obtaining their goods in a timely manner and despite letters and requests for meetings to discuss and find a solution, “we have not got the requisite attention that should be afforded to the business community”.
“We are seeing hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid in demurrage charges every week and there is no explanation as to why something has taken longer than it should have taken and there needs to be answers,” demanded Gale.
The Governor agreed that the Social Partnership was not being utilized properly.
“We have the institutional mechanism in the [form] of the Social Partnership. Why are we not using it? We are not using it effectively because that is the best place to deal with these issues,” advised Worrell.
A critical Worrell acknowledged there was “plenty of blame to go around”. He said while the Government was carrying out fiscal adjustments, the public was not getting value for its tax dollars from the public sector.
“The public of Barbados is saying to me and to my colleagues in the public service, you are not giving us value for our taxes and that is a prime issue which we have to address,” he said.
However, the Governor said the public should understand that if it wanted “all the free public services”, then they should finance it “and they have to be financed through taxes”. “And you have to also accept that the current level of provision is not being financed adequately by the taxation that you are having,” he said.
Worrell went on: “The deficit is too high and the services are deteriorating. The road services, they are full of potholes, your schools are deteriorating. It is not a disaster. It is eminently fixable. The things that we have to do are difficult but they are not overwhelmingly difficult.”