There is a saying that “A promise is but comfort to a fool,” so I’m really not interested in the promises that are being bandied about in this election season. We still have promises outstanding from the current government’s 2008 and 2013 manifestos and probably some from the other administration’s as well.
I am more interested to hear what solutions parties asking us to vote for them will bring and I mean tangible, well thought out solutions. So, while the state of the foreign reserves are at crisis point, selling the Hilton below market value to get a few million dollars in the reserves is not, in my opinion, a solution. And, quite frankly, I don’t understand the rush to ensure that the sale goes through just a week before the election.
To me, this is the reason why elections should be held as soon as possible after Parliament dissolves so that a new Cabinet can be appointed within a reasonable time frame so that the existing Cabinet cannot make binding decisions for the country while there is no Parliament sitting to challenge those decisions.
I know that we need some major solutions to deal with the big problems that we have and one of the big ones is the fact that whoever forms the next Government will be like Mother Hubbard, as one of my colleagues said in a chat. So we should at least start with some low hanging fruit and tackle the issues that are cheap and easy to fix even as we give thought to the big ones.
One of the low hanging fruit in my opinion is making business easy, especially for small businesses. Everyone must be tired of hearing about the woes of dealing with the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office. I would love to measure how many people go there to register a business or incorporate a company and how many of those have to go back more than once to correct some issue. I suppose that is why they suggest you use an attorney.
I recently incorporated a company and when I went to collect the forms about three weeks later, I was shown an error. Granted, I prepared the documents myself and just got an attorney to sign two of them. So I went back home, made the correction, got the attorney to sign the new form and submitted it again. I got a call this week (four working days later) to say that I could pick them up.
I think it would save so much time if the person who takes the documents would spend two minutes (literally) to glance at the documents and see that is everything is in order before you leave. If something needs to be corrected, you know there and then, and not three weeks later when you call to find out. Alternatively, the person dealing with the documents could call and tell you the problem so that you can correct it and bring it back right away. That does not cost anything but a few minutes and saves so much time and productivity.
Town and Country Planning is another area that I believe there are low hanging fruit and opportunities for increased revenue and decreased turnaround time. I believe that currently there is supposed to be a three-month waiting time for approval of plans. We know that is a farce, especially if the Environmental Assessment and Coastal Department has to get involved.
Surely, it would pay to have a team of staff dedicated to a fast-track process where projects that need a quick turnaround could pay a fast-track fee (kind of like when you go to Disney World) which gets them to the front of the queue. Perhaps then we would not lose some of the million-dollar projects whose investors get tired of waiting for approval and take their business to some other country. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we bypass approvals or don’t properly carry out assessments, but we need to find some way to prioritise projects that will bring in foreign exchange, hire people and stimulate the economy and if that means offering a fast-track service for additional fees that might be an option.
The Licensing Authority must have many low hanging fruit waiting to be picked. For example, another camera, at the location in Warrens for example, could alleviate the ridiculous waiting period and the breakdowns of the one at the Pine. I don’t know how much that little camera costs plus the computer and program to create the card, but if BARP can afford one, surely the Government of Barbados can. Failing that, I am sure that is something that the “ungrateful” private sector wouldn’t mind paying for because it is something that all of us use, from the executive to the driver.
Do you know how many times people have told me that they spent an hour in the line to pay for their licence and then when they got to the camera section it was either not working or, according to the last one I heard, it was closed for lunch? When we add up the cost of productive time lost surely the country could buy ten cameras!
Those are only three fairly inexpensive but time saving solutions. So instead of making vain and lavish promises, I would love the politicians and those vying for position to commit to tackling some of the low hanging fruit with a big payoff and give a date that they will have it done by. Then I will know they are serious about their promises.
Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Program.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org