The last time we engaged readers in an editorial on an issue of national importance, it was in 2016. Today, we are doing so for the first time in a new year – 2017 to be exact – which dawned with the usual festivities over the weekend.
The start of a new year traditionally fills the air with a renewed sense of hope and optimism. Perhaps it is the perception of freshness in the change of time that inspires persons to turn a fresh page, make some improvements in their lives and do a few things differently than before.
Which explains the traditional practice of making resolutions at the start of every year, even though the majority may later fall through the cracks because after the novelty of the new year has worn off, old habits return and it is back to the old same old, same old.
Given the many irritants of one kind or another in our day-to-day lives on this little rock, every one of us, as citizens, has a responsibility to press for some kind of improvement at the national level which would redound to our collective benefit. One area crying out for change is the generally unfriendly manner in which Government conducts business.
Government exists to serve citizens. It is not granting any favour but using resources taken from the pockets of citizens in the form of what many would argue is exorbitant taxation, to provide services which we do not get in some cases or, if we do, the quality leaves much to be desired.
So frustrating is the experience doing business with some departments that it said getting things done in Government sometimes is like pulling teeth, to use a well-known saying. Are we contented with continuing to just complain without doing anything else about this poor service? The powers-that-be, if they have been paying attention, ought to be familiar with the widespread dissatisfaction of citizens.
Yet nothing of significance happens for the better, notwithstanding the occasional expressions of commitment to the pursuit of public sector reform. So what do we intend to do? Public sector inefficiencies are draining Barbados and that ought to be sufficient reason for collective action by citizens. They are also hurting the economy which is the source of our well-being.
2017 promises to be an interesting year. The countdown to the next general election, constitutionally one year away, will get underway pretty soon. With this development, politicians, including some who have been missing in action in their constituencies, will suddenly become more visible and accessible. The motivation is our vote. They need it and they need it badly.
The fact of the matter is that the persons we elect are the ones who are best placed to introduce meaningful change to the public service that will deliver the kind of improvements which citizens generally are yearning for. However, they can only do so if they have a good grasp of how Government works and, more importantly, the process of public policy development.
It is sad commentary on Barbados in its 50th year of Independence that we still have persons offering themselves for election to public office who do not have a clue about what is involved. Some happen to be popular in their communities for one reason or another and some of our people seem to believe that this popularity translates into having what is required to make hefty decisions on complex problems facing the nation.
Is it any wonder that we are grappling with some of the problems we are seeing in the public sector? Our voting decisions sometimes are akin to choosing someone to sail a ship who does have the foggiest idea where to begin, not even how to swim if there is an emergency.
When the various candidates come knocking on our doors to solicit our votes over the coming months, it is our duty to subject them to intense scrutiny to find out, for example, their motivation for seeking office, their skills set, their experience, and their achievements to determine their suitability for the job at hand. To do otherwise would amount to shortchanging ourselves.
When we critically assess the state of Barbados today, our island could do with improvement in so many areas to make life a little better for our people who rightly deserve such because of sacrifices which they have made over the years.
Ensuring that we choose the right people with the skills to make the necessary changes is the first critical step. That is why the next general election assumes a special significance. Given the problems we face, it can no longer be business as usual.