Full independence of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) and an establishment of an independent body to evaluate and investigate the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) are two of several recommendations contained in a new Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) publication.
The 564-page book, which explores the historical development and status of political and economic institutions in the Caribbean and compares it to international best practices, was designed to identify positive aspects and institutional areas in need of improvement that could facilitate a sustainable development path in the Caribbean.
Co-editor of the publication, Regional Economic Advisor for the Caribbean Country Department of the IDB Moisés Schwartz, said overall Barbados had very good indicators regarding its political system, administration of justice, rule of law, democracy, and supporting institutions, when compared to other countries.
However, in its recommendation the publication, titled Nurturing Institutions for a Resilient Caribbean, suggested full independence of the EBC, saying it would be “beneficial” to how people perceived the political process.
In addition, the authors recommended that international observers be invited as external guarantors of elections in order to “increase the credibility and transparency of the democratic process”.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY at his Maxwell, Christ Church office on Wednesday, Schwartz said while Barbados did not generally have a problem with election procedures, it would help to make that government department legally independent to avoid any perception of political interference.
“From what we have seen in comparison to other countries it would be good to have total independence of the Electoral [and Boundaries] Commission from the incumbent government and from the parties that it monitors,” he said.
“So even though it works well as it is working now, perceptions are very important. It has to be some kind of legal impedence to get rid of any negative perception there might be. You don’t want the incumbent government to be perceived as affecting the best interest of the election commission,” he explained.
Adding that it could be a matter of time before an individual or a member of the Opposition accuse the EBC of having a political affiliation should an election result not be to their liking, Schwartz said it would help to make the EBC totally independent.
“Many countries have gone that way and even though that is not a problem in Barbados and no one suggests that is a problem, but as you are moving forward in the right direction it would help because you don’t know when you might meet this kind of a situation in the future. You may have a very contested election at some point . . . but one way of getting rid of that perception is to have a law regarding how you constitute the electoral commission,” he explained.
In relation to the RBPF, the publication noted that although the performance of the law enforcement institution has been “relatively satisfactory” based on research, the Police Complaints Authority or any other authority designed to hold the police accountable, should be independent from the force.
“In addition, such institutions should not only oversee but also undertake investigations of complaints against the police, thereby effectively avoiding conflicts of interests,” Schwartz added.
Similarly, with reference to the local judicial system, the publication noted that although it was functioning “well” in comparison with Latin America and other small economies, there was scope for improvement.
The IDB official said one area Barbados could improve its judicial processes was to have more judges, adding that the number of judges appointed here was two times below the world average of about 18 judges per 100,000 people.
“There are a lot of delays in the administration process. One element of that might have to do with the number of judges. It is good to have a more expeditious system, but at least you have trust in the system which is something that doesn’t happen in every country,” he said.