I believe that confession is good for the soul. I was therefore pleased to see the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Dr David Estwick, admit in a recent newspaper article that his party has failed.
However, admitting failure is only the beginning. The important part is what we do next. He said that he had presented numerous letters to his colleagues in Government proposing solutions to the country’s economic problems, but they were ignored.
I have to confess that I was not too comfortable with his suggestion of consolidating all our debt into one $5 billion sinking fund from the United Arab Emirates, but I am no economist so I don’t know the pros and cons.
Whether they have come from Mr. Estwick or others, there seems to be no shortage of solutions in Barbados. The problem, however, appears to be in the acceptance and implementation of them. Only this week, I read a document called Barbados Short and Medium Term Action Plan, which was commissioned by the late David Thompson at the beginning of the 2007/2008 global financial crisis and prepared by The Special Working Group on the Economy.
This group included some of the best brains in the country, well respected individuals, who spent months putting together the document, with action plans to address the issues that were facing the country at the time. It was presented to Prime Minister Thompson in December 2008 and that seems to have been the last that was heard of it.
In the past, I have been in various meetings where the general consensus was that we have been voicing the same complaints for 30 years and nothing has changed. So what is wrong with Barbados? What prevents us, as a nation, from implementing solutions that we (very often) pay for?
Is it that we are “hard ears”, as the old people would say, and can’t hear and “own way” so we must feel? Or is there some unseen force that literally prevents us from completing anything that we start and stops us from implementing much needed changes at every level of our country?
I recently completed the third book in my series of historical novels in 30 days. That is not the norm, but I was in bed for two weeks and had a lot of time on my hands. Nevertheless, it was quite a feat and people marvelled that I managed to finish it. In fact, every time I complete a book, it seems to generate more amazement than is merited, in my opinion.
Is it because finishing is not the norm for us in Barbados? Have we become so accustomed to never doing what we say, never finishing what we start and never implementing solutions that we pay for, that when the opposite happens it is a wonder?
If we have not yet realized the danger of accepting that as the norm, now more than ever we need to. I must confess that after reading the Barbados Short and Medium Term Action Plan, I was somewhat overwhelmed by all that needed to be done but, as the name suggested, there were some short-term actions that could be tackled right away and some that would be addressed further in the future.
The short-term ones are what I always refer to as the low hanging fruit; the things you can tackle right away and accomplish so that they give you the encouragement you need to tackle the bigger actions.
The report opened by saying: “Managing the unfolding global economic crisis and the threat it poses to social stability and the continued advance of the Barbadian economy will be much more about communication, consultation and changes in the ways of doing business than it will be about economics.”
That, as I said, was in 2008. Since then, there has been poor communication, little consultation and very little change in the ways of doing business. Are we therefore surprised to find ourselves in the situation we are in today?
Some of the actions which were for immediate effect did not require any financial investment, but rather investment of time and had no excuse for not being implemented. For example, one of the immediate actions under “Communication and Consultation” was: “Increase frequency of prime ministerial addresses to the nation”. I will say no more on this.
Under Professional Services, two of the short-term actions were: “Review fee setting in legal profession” and “Reform, simplify and speed up legal processes” to improve business facilitation and improve turnaround times. I have not been involved in any legal processes lately so maybe it has improved.
While some of the actions suggested in the document may have been implemented, I do not know why the majority were not. I will not speculate that it was a case of ‘I didn’t bring those solutions so I am not implementing them’.
I suppose we, myself included, look to those who are most visible to attribute blame, but it is often the ones behind the scenes that are content with the status quo and resistant to change. The bottom line is we can have as many working groups on the economy as we like, but if we do not defeat the enemy that resists the implementation of those solutions, we will achieve nothing.
We have to do this together, even if it means making sacrifices on our part for the benefit of the whole.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016), the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme.
Contact her at email@example.com
Website www.donnaevery.com; www.facebook.com/DonnaEvery1)