Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has reportedly noted that we need to prepare for some bitter medicine. The Barbados Workers Union has signalled its intention not send its workers to the front of the queue to receive this medication.
Fortunately for us, the only group that needs to receive any bitter medicine is our politicians. They have resisted taking it for the past 40 years to the foreseen detriment of Barbados’ economic health.
The Social Partnership has been reconvened, and is expected to, once again, try to force the bitter medicine on us while keeping our politicians medicine-free. Mr Arthur has reportedly been invited to the National Economic Council, and given his past “bitter medicine” comments, the Council is expected to ensure the same result.
Those of us who are old enough have seen this movie many times before. Politicians tend to prefer a degraded national economy to taking their medicine. Even after the national economy has been devastated, they still tend to resist taking their medicine to correct the root cause of an ailing national economy. It reminds me of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to wisdom, which resulted in the utter destruction of the Egyptian economy.
Barbadian politicians have resisted taking their medicine for the past 40 years. The current economic challenges provide an opportunity to once again encourage our politicians to take their medicine, which will not only avoid the planned austerity for the rest of us, but can facilitate prosperity for all of us.
This can be done in four simple steps – none of which includes laying-off civil servants, reducing their wages, or incurring additional Government spending. It just requires our politicians to be responsible and take their medicine.
Step 1 is to increase local currency revenues. This can be done by reducing taxes on personal and corporate income to 10 per cent of gross income – with no deductions. Mr Arthur knows that the Government received increased revenues when he reduced taxes – an act that we recommend that he receive a knighthood.
Step 2 is to increase foreign currency revenues. This can be done by reducing taxes on all foreign currency earnings that are eventually deposited at the Central Bank, to zero.
Step 3 is to increase productivity in both the public and private sectors, and reduce wastage and unnecessary costs in the public sector. This can be done by managing all public services within the ISO 9001 Quality Management System.
Step 4 is the most crucially important step, and if it is not done, the benefits from the other steps will likely be frustrated by civil servants. To explain, the first 10 years of our Independence was our golden age with a highly professional civil service. Public service employees were selected and promoted on merit alone and not on whether they were highly favoured by the political party in power.
In 1974, the Democratic Labour Party changed the Barbados Constitution to essentially politicize public services. Our public servants currently operate in a toxic environment of being fully aware that they can be managed, at any time, by an incompetent political appointee, and that they cannot be promoted to senior positions unless they are highly favoured by the political party in power.
The politicization of our civil service is the root cause of most of the wastage, inefficiencies and unproductivity in Barbados. Our politicians know this, and the Barbados Labour Party promised us on their honour, that they would revert to a professional civil service if we elected them in 1976. They tricked us. Then they tricked us again in 1981, 1994, 1999, and 2003. It is precisely because I do not believe that they will ever keep this promise that we formed Solutions Barbados to contest the next general election.
The 1974 Constitutional amendment that intentionally politicized our public service needs to be abolished immediately. This is the only bitter medicine that is required and Mr Arthur should have kept the BLP’s first sacred promise and dispensed it to his BLP colleagues when he was Prime Minister. It must now be taken by responsible politicians if Barbados is to prosper.
Since none of our politicians have made any effort to abolish the damaging amendment for over 40 years, despite repeated similar pleadings, I do not expect them to suddenly awake to their primary responsibility of meaningfully caring for Barbados now. Therefore, the BWU, NUPW, CTUSAB and all other union organizations should prepare their members, and their members’ families, to assemble at the front of the queue and prepare to swallow Mr Arthur’s bitter medicine.
(Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at [email protected])