Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s recent indication that layoffs in the public service are imminent should come as no surprise to the Barbadian populace.
Trimming recognised fat in the public service was a decision on which the former Democratic Labour Party administration dawdled though knowing that such a strategy was inevitable. Perhaps, cognizant that they were arguably the country’s most unpopular post-independence government, the Freundel Stuart administration practised advanced inertia on the issue for fear of falling even further below zero on their popularity chart. Admittedly, there had been previous “trimming” of the public service but whispered suggestions since that time have suggested that a number of these made their way back into the public service.
Whenever the cuts come – and they will come – Barbadians ought not to waste their energies moaning and groaning about a situation over which they have no say or control. The involvement of the International Monetary Fund in Barbados’ recovery plan always meant that many public service workers would be going home. The International Monetary Fund relates directly to facts, figures, trends and statistics, and not explicitly flesh and bones. Only the very naïve would have expected that a change of government would have translated into a quick fix of the economy or a relaxing of inevitable stringent measures.
During the early 1990s under the Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford administration, Barbadians were faced with job and salary cuts in the public service. It was a credit to the people’s resilience and ingenuity that hundreds, if not thousands, went into entrepreneurship of various kinds or found other private sector means of providing for themselves and their families. Barbadians did not recline and play dead. We do not expect them to do so now whenever the inevitable occurs.
But the Mia Mottley administration must be very mindful of the examples it sets. The country’s political boss must lead by direct example. History has shown that she is keenly aware of optics. Her hands-on approach, her frequent engagement with the media and a propensity to speak to issues before they fester are indicative of an astute individual who is sensitive to the type of public over which she lords. It is within this context with public sector layoffs imminent that Miss Mottley leads by trimming the girth which currently surrounds her. She has gone on record as stating that the burden of Barbados’ recovery must be shared by all and thus from her own mouth she must guard against her bloated Cabinet, her high-paid consultants and political stringers being exempted from the bitter medicine to be administered to the Barbadian public.
A cursory look at the make-up of Prime Minister Mottley’s team reveals some interesting facts. Drawing salaries from the public purse in the area of communications are Charles Jong as Government’s communications consultant, Pat Parris as director of public affairs in the office of the Prime Minister and Senator Lucille Moe as Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs. Add to this the fact that there is an established and fully staffed Government Information Service acting as the conduit between the people and the Government and one cannot but observe that there is overlap in some of these positions, and as some would suggest, actual ‘unemployment’ in some of these jobs.
Another cursory look at the management of Barbados’ finance and economic affairs reveals a similar situation. Miss Mottley is Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment, Mr Ryan Straughan is Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Miss Marsha Caddle is Minister of State in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Ambassador Dr Clyde Mascoll is chief economic counselor to the Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment and Professor Avinash Persaud is economic advisor to the Government. Surely, a country with a small, struggling economy, and unable to pay its debts, cannot afford such bloat simply to provide political employment. And within the context of what is soon to befall the Barbadian public the Mia Mottley-led Government must do the right thing and lead by example.
Every indicator suggests that Barbados and Barbadians must be fiscally prudent. Politicians have turned “it cannot be business as usual” into a cliché but yet business continues in Barbados as usual from one administration to another. Miss Mottley has been swift to speak to inherited debt, and the need to change the system of doing things in the island. Looking back and apportioning blame for Barbados’ economic situation does not help the country. The blame goes beyond 2008. Bellowing “political corruption” does not help Barbados’ current economic situation. Apolitical observation and investigation are almost certain to find the smell of corruption in both the Democratic Labour Party and the Barbados Labour Party and among public servants serving under both administrations. The time for sitting back and pointing accusatorial fingers has passed and does not get Barbados out of the mess that both the DLP and BLP have placed it.
Miss Mottley has correctly sought to address our economic problems and has warned us that some bitter medicine is on its way. She must be keenly aware, though, that the medicine will go down the palates of the average Barbadian a lot faster and smoother if he or she observes others in high office swallowing and perhaps grimacing at the taste of the substance.