Barbadians have developed a reputation for being perrenial complainers. So much so that it appears sometimes as if this tendency is embedded in our DNA.
Complaining is not altogether negative, as some believe. Indeed, complaining can serve a useful purpose if it results in bringing attention to bear on vexing problems and then spurring decisive action that results in the development and delivery of satisfactory solutions.
Such would represent a positive benefit. On the other hand, complaining can have a negative effect by acting as an obstacle to progress if people directly affected by the issue become trapped in a mindset which stifles their ability to shift the focus away from just griping about the particular problem towards creative problem-solving.
Does Barbados finds itself in this hapless predicament? It is an issue on the table for consideration. However, public debate in this country seems to have become so heavily focused on problems that it seems sometimes that we are hopelessly incapable of looking beyond to find solutions, even though in reality this is not the case.
Every person is blessed with problem-solving ability. The main challenge, however, is finding the will which opens the way. Come to really think about it, some of the problems being discussed in Barbados today have been around for a long time. In some instances, because of a lack of a decisive intervention, they have steadily become worse over time.
What is interesting about this national tendency for complaining is that it is not just limited to individuals but also extends to the corridors of Government where ultimate responsibility lies for solving problems at the national level. We see evidence of this, for example, when an incumbent administration, persistently blames its predecessor for existing problems.
At any rate, the electorate would have already dealt harshly with the previous Government by voting it out of office. In opting for change, voters naturally would have hoped that a new Government would fix the problems left by its predecessor and certainly do much better. That expectation is what drives decisions to vote for change.
We also see evidence of the tendency to complain from time to time when senior officials, including ministers, complain about the existence of problems as if somehow the solutions are elusive. It certainly would be better to come before the public and articulate proposals for solutions instead of complaining, which convey an impression of being powerless to do anything.
Under the present administration, a recurring complaint has been about the existence of extensive bureaucratic red tape and the negative effect it is having on the country’s development by, for example, turning off some investors, and contributing to inefficiencies for business that in some cases push up prices for the consumer. If Government lacks the political will to fix these vexing bureaucratic problems which are hurting the island’s development, then who else will?
A fundamental function of Government is to fix problems which affect the collective well-being of citizens in one way or another and also stand in the way of their collective quest for an improved quality of life. That is one of the main reasons why governments are elected in the first place.
So, when officials just complain about problems without articulating an approach to delivering solutions, it calls into question the extent of the government’s effectiveness. That having been said, some problems admittedly are easier to solve than others. In some cases, problems are systemic. Coming up with effective solutions in such cases requires persistence and commitment.
In many cases, government, although it has legislative power at its disposal, is unable to solve a problem singlehandedly. The ability to do so hinges on winning the support and cooperation of various stakeholders who have an interest in the particular issue. Which underscores an important role for communication to convince such stakeholders that cooperation will advance their interest.
In less than a year, Barbadians will vote in a general election that will take place against a backdrop of unprecedented social, economic and political problems which, in different ways, pose a serious threat to the country’s future. Let this not be another occasion for complaining or diverting attention from the pressing issues by attacking personalities as if this is the solution.
The forthcoming campaign can serve a useful purpose if it is seen as an opportunity by the various parties to engage Barbadians in a meaningful conversation on solutions and also demonstrate that they possess the political will to follow through with implementation. Now more than ever, that is what the country needs more of.