My evaluation of the performance of all Members of Parliament over the past five months is to give them a grade of A – for effort. Most of them are novices in their posts, including the Prime Minister. However, in my opinion, they appear to have handled themselves well.
Perfection is not a reasonable performance expectation. Perfection is normally demanded by political parties in opposition, and for ten years, the BLP-in-opposition continually demanded it of the last DLP administration. They also proposed that we, the public, should expect nothing less from our Government. We were encouraged to join with them in marching against the National Social Reconstruction Levy (NSRL) demanding early elections, and engaging in other forms of civil disobedience.
When our current Ministers made their inevitable mistakes, they have tended to change course rather than stubbornly continue down the wrong road. This is commendable, and they should never feel ashamed of changing their minds to our benefit, despite the partisan criticism from DLP supporters. Our Ministers deserve time to learn the operation of their ministries, recognize when their policies are unnecessarily harmful to us, and change course when necessary.
I will give them that time and that grace. However, I will also continue to give them this weekly unsolicited advice, despite it triggering rude reactions from their extreme partisan supporters, and being ignored by the news media. Those two groups are currently doing this country a grave disservice.
Barbados has a $10b formal economy, of which the Government takes approximately $3b. We are in financial difficulty today only because we blindly trusted our politicians to properly manage our economy. Both administrations betrayed our trust by continually over spending in our names for over 40 years, so our debts accumulated. Now they are blaming us for their actions, protecting themselves from any austerity, and claiming, with the support of an apparently politically compromised news media, that our suffering is the only solution – when it is not. It is merely their only solution.
The decision to unnecessarily target our pensions is both unconscionable and likely illegal. Everyone with a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), or any type of pension, including the NIS, would have had that investment in Treasury Bills. Why? Because they are the safest contractual investment in Barbados.
The only way that pensioners cannot get paid all their pension is if our politicians are not paid, because contractually, they must all be paid from the same source – the Consolidated Fund. That is the only reason why persons would do something so lunatic as to lend money to a Government that has consistently wasted and mismanaged it.
Our politicians can be relied on to break their promises. However, that has little bearing on our investment decisions. They will do anything to ensure that they are paid and fighting for their salary means that they are automatically fighting for our pensions. However, we underestimated the seeming deviousness of their well-paid advisors – enter BERT.
Rather than fight for their salaries and our pensions, our politicians creatively gave themselves a raise. Then they designed a law to allow them to break their contractual agreement with current and future pensioners so that they can legally avoid paying us all that is due. They, and their seemingly politically compromised media and extreme supporters, now have the gall to tell us that we are all in this together.
I cannot blame our politicians who are still learning on the job. With little to do but talk about the blue, green and orange economy, they are desperate to actually do something, and in their desperation, they will make mistakes. Some of those mistakes can grievously harm us.
Fortunately, our founders gave us a Constitution to protect us from the worst behaviours of those whom we elect. Unfortunately, with a 30-0 election result, our politicians can, and have changed our Constitution at will, with no meaningful public debate. However, all is not lost.
The Constitution provides a Senate to review all proposed legislation that cunning political advisors are able to trick our naïve politicians into adopting. Our senators are supposed to represent our interests, and defend us from the worst excesses of government, whether deliberate or inadvertent.
During the recent reading of the Debt Restructuring bill, I listened as our Senators tried to behave like the politicians whom they worship, with no effort whatsoever to defend us from an unnecessary and likely unconstitutional bill. With a seemingly politically compromised news media that has apparently already lost its journalistic integrity, we, for the first time since our Independence, have no one looking out for us. My fellow Barbadians, put your houses in order.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at [email protected]