As a consulting engineer, I always provide my clients with my best professional advice, which they have the option of accepting or rejecting. Unless it is an imminent safety concern, I try not to get emotionally involved in any advice that I give.
There are real consequences to providing sub-standard engineering advice. For example, it can be fatal to the persons occupying the engineered structures. Also, engineers are personally liable for any quantifiable damage that results from people following their advice, whether they are paying clients or the non-paying public. It is principally for these reasons that most professionals tend to limit their advice to paying clients.
We were told that we had to enter a time of severe austerity, and we were invited to make sacrifices for the good of the nation. However, to my knowledge, no one received an invitation. The Government sent home public workers without notification, defaulted on loans to foreign creditors without negotiation, and confiscated money owed to pensioners and investors while passing a law to make the confiscation legal.
We are being told by the media to give the BLP administration a chance, since desperate times call for desperate measures. However, no one is calling for early elections or organizing a march – all of which occurred under the last DLP administration. Everyone seems to be trying to play their part and adjust their lives to the demanded sacrifices. But something seems wrong, and we should be free to express our feelings without persecution.
We were led to believe that the Government had to confiscate part of our pensions and retirement savings and send home public workers because the Government had no money. If that is true, then what are they using to pay the five per cent increase in salaries that they gave themselves and public workers? What are they using to pay the salaries of their advisers and supporters who sit on ineffective boards and in the Senate? Bitcoins? No. They are being paid real money, our money, sacrificially taken.
During this period of severe austerity, serving on a board should be a volunteer position. The same for the Senate. Past politicians receiving their lucrative lifetime pensions should not be paid for their advice when there are so many senior public workers who can provide the same or better advice. How can a person spend 30 years in the public service and still be deemed not good enough to offer competent advice?
I have been offering my best advice freely to the public for the past two decades, under both political administrations. I have sat on advisory committees—and it was all voluntary—as a member, vice chairman and chairman. There was never any expectation of being paid, not even a stipend, but we gave our best advice. I still sit on a technical committee in the current administration and there is no expectation of being paid. When did we start selectively paying advisers?
Let me clarify that if someone is not working, then I have no concerns about having such persons being paid a stipend. But it is unconscionable for salaried persons or past-politicians receiving their lucrative pensions, to be paid part of our pension and retirement savings for their advice, while they demand that others share in the sacrifice. Why don’t they also share during these desperate times?
If salaried Senators, board members and advisers were unpaid, then would they still serve? If the answer is yes, then stop paying them the money taken from our pensions, and the salaries saved from laying off public workers, immediately. They should be ashamed to receive that money. If they are not willing to volunteer to serve as part of their shared sacrifice, then dismiss them and find others with far more integrity.
We were told that almost all Members of Parliament had to work for a full-time salary because there was simply too much of our work that needed to be done, and all hands needed to be on deck. We are not naive. We understand that most of the BLP politicians are new and inexperienced and expect a full-time salary. Therefore, by all means, let them work and pay them the normal salary.
However, if they cannot manage to live within the means of the money that we provide them in taxes, and are demanding a full day’s pay after passing laws to take part of my pension and retirement savings to pay themselves and their friends, then at least give me a full day’s work.
Why am I seeing MPs who are being paid a full-time salary to work for us, in the media doing work for their private clients—on our time? Why are they not on deck? Now, if this was not harming us, then they could do what they want with our time. However, it is our pensions and our retirement savings that they have confiscated, so they better get back to work and start performing.
If the excuse is that our work does not demand all of their time during normal working hours, then give me back my money. If they want to keep it, then they should at least pretend to be working and stop reminding us that our confiscated money is being wasted.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at [email protected]