Canada’s top diplomat here is suggesting that strong and effective chauffeurs who command authority and provide direction are needed to drive the necessary programmes designed to tackle head-on, some of the very problems that Barbados has been grappling with of late.
While not mentioning Barbados by name when she addressed the 5th technical working group meeting of the Caribbean Leadership Project (CLP) under the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD), High Commissioner Marie Legault made specific mention of water and sewage issues, as well as crime and transportation, among the challenges facing the region that require strong public sector leadership.
“It can be crime and security, it can be climate change in the region, it can be migration and transportation, it can be water and sewage problems that we know are an issue in the region. We know that the region is never short on those challenges . . . So it is important to have a strong public sector that can tackle those issues and you can work together as a region,” Legault told those gathered at Accra Beach Resort for the start of the two-day meeting.
The island’s lingering sewage problems have been well documented as the south coast tourism belt, particularly Hastings and Worthing, fights what up to now has been a losing battle with raw faeces.
The issue, which has been ongoing for just under two years, has forced the closure of at least one fast food restaurant, as well as the Worthing post office, and has sparked an outcry from home and business owners, as well as residents and visitors.
It has also prompted travel advisories from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, warning their citizens visiting here to be careful when venturing to that part of the island. In addition, Washington last week issued a health alert, advising its embassy staff that the tap water was not fit for consumption.
At the same time the country remains mired in an economic maelstrom, while crime reached worrying levels last year, with 30 murders, 23 of which were gun related.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has typically been slow to publicly address the nation on these issues, despite repeated calls from Barbadians, and when he does it normally is at a meeting of the ruling Democratic Labour Party, a gathering of repeat visitors, or, as was the case last week at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry luncheon, when he speaks to specific groups.
But communication among leaders, public sector executives, citizens, international partners and other stakeholders is essential “for the needed change”, according to Devon Rowe, the executive director of CARICAD.
“The sequence of communication in the whole process is that it must come early to ensure that the support that is required can be obtained,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“It should be all over, whether it is public sector, private sector, we need to engage the same principles of leadership. We may execute them differently based on our particular circumstances and the environment in which we are, but we must execute against the principles,” added Rowe, who was part of a team that led public sector reform in Jamaica.
Communication as part of effective leadership was also raised by Dr Lois Parkes, the CLP’s regional project manager, who told Barbados TODAY collaboration was also an important part of the solution.
She pointed to Grenada’s decision to engage in a homegrown programme supported by the International Monetary Fund, as an example of leadership that was willing “to do the hard work”, some of which she said could be “very painful”.
“The issues you are dealing with are complex. So you are dealing with climate change, you are dealing with a different type of labour force, you dealing with our harsh socio-economic realities, you are dealing with health challenges . . . crime and security is an issue for many Caribbean countries. These are not easy issues and one thing that is common to all of those problems is that all of those things require effective leadership, transformational leadership. That is why it is important,” she said, adding that “we all know when it is absent for sure”.
Over the next two days, the working group will be examining how to move forward with developing a vision, strategy and implementation plan for sustainable leadership development in the Caribbean.
It will include identifying ongoing leadership development needs and challenges and possible solutions for each based on the economic, social, environmental and other limitations.
The Caribbean Leadership Project, which started in 2005 with funding from the Canadian Government, aims to, among other outcomes, identify shortcomings and provide leadership related training opportunities for executives in the private sector.