A leading private sector official has told a gathering of labour leaders, Government officials, business leaders and workers that it is time they top the blame game and work together to fix the many social ills plaguing the country.
Chief Executive Officer of Cave Shepherd John Williams is concerned that while much has been achieved in areas such as quality of housing, access to health services, gender rights, management of enterprises and tolerance of sexual orientation, there are other areas in need of urgent attention.
“Regrettably, in my view, we cannot take continued progress as a given. In several areas, we’ve stagnated and in other areas we’ve actually regressed,” he said in an address at the launch of the annual conference of the Congress of Trade Unions & Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) on Thursday night.
“When parts of Barbados frequently have no access to running water, when prisoners are on remand for months or even years; when according to recent reports several hundred persons are awaiting eye surgery, we must be concerned,” he told the gathering, which included Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo.
The soft-spoken Williams said he was neither suggesting that these things happened overnight nor was he not pointing fingers at any particular administration.
However, he did not mince his words about what he needs to be done.
“Whether you are in a trade union, whether you are in a business or whether you are in the Government, even if you didn’t create the problem, it’s up to you. You are now in charge and you are responsible for fixing it or at least starting to fix it,” he said.
“I am not suggesting that fixing these problems will be easy,” the businessman said, while acknowledging “there are many causes that are global in nature, some technological, some cultural and societal that we must wrestle with as they have changed many of our cultural norms and often very much for the worse.”
He pointed to some “common factors” that he said were endangering the country’s progress.
“First, in our fight for rights we seem to have forgotten responsibilities. This has been compounded by a dominance of rights of the individual over the rights of the society,” he said.
“It seems impossible for a teacher/pupil matter in a school, an employment dispute or even a planning application not to end up before the courts or at the very least on the front page of the newspaper.
“The prevalence of rights over responsibilities is clearly evident not just among individuals but also among the spheres of business, of labour and Government.”