Independent Senator John Watson today called for a change to the make up of the Upper House, arguing that there was a need for more independent representatives in order to bring a greater level of balance.
Of the 21 senators, 12 represent Government, two are from the Opposition, and seven are independent.
Harking back to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s mantra during the 50th anniversary of independence that Barbadians needed to identify features of the society that they wanted to keep, those they wanted to discard and those they wanted to reclaim, Watson said “the first change should take place in this Senate”, recommending an Upper Chamber comprising seven independent, ten Government and four Opposition senators.
This, he said, would more often than not still ensure Government wins any vote that is taken “but on the odd occasion where the balance is required I think that gives the opportunity to the Senate to make the best decisions in the interest of Barbados”.
He said while there were arguments in support of a Government majority, there were those who believe “the balance in the Senate should be held by the independent senators”.
“I am not suggesting at all that it removes any power from the Government, but what it does it gives the representation of all people a better chance of getting the best. And it will give more confidence to the working of this Senate,” he added.
The businessman also called for technical and clerical support for senators, saying assistance with research would result in “a greater contribution from senators” instead of them relying purely on the time allotted to them for debate.
At the same time, Watson called for a “consolidation” and “rationalization” of Government ministries and departments, insisting there were too many overlaps, as he pointed to the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade where consolidation of some departments would create greater efficiency.
Another area of concern, Watson said, was a need to ensure good governance by having a well functioning and structured Public Accounts Committee (PAC) comprising a higher proportion of independent senators for greater balance.
“I believe it doesn’t matter which party is in the Government, that committee should be a committee that represents the interest of Barbados,” he said.
The businessman, who said he missed only one of the 93 sittings of the Senate and one of the 43 PAC meetings, said he enjoyed his time spent in the Upper House and called for more to be done to get more Barbadians attending and listening the debates.