A Government Minister is expressing disappointment at the low levels of investment in statistics in Barbados and the rest of the region, as officials point to a number of challenges facing public sector workers.
Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle said over the past ten years Barbados was faced with a “zero growth environment” and under-investment in several areas that were critical to the island’s development.
Caddle told a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Leadership in Action conference for public sector policy leaders that there was “under-investment in social issues and social capital, under-investment in institutions, under-investment in infrastructure”.
Complaining that the region has not been in a position to monitor and measure development achievements over the years, Caddle suggested that it was mainly due to weak national statistical services systems.
“Your national statistical system has to be very strong. In order to do that, every single ministry, entity and agency also has to have the capacity to report into your national statistical system,” she told the regional participants gathered at the Courtyard by Marriott on Monday.
“I want to say in Barbados, we do not currently have that. We have a Barbados Statistical Service that is full of talented hard-working people who need investment in the systems that we have established as well as enhanced systems and enhanced capacity to be able to not just do the work that they do . . . it calls for ongoing investment. That is what is required for the transformation that has to take place,” she said.
“There is right now an under-investment in statistics in this region . . . We cannot move forward without it. We cannot have evidence-based policy-making, planning, analysis and monitoring and reporting without the data that is going to tell you how your policy is affecting people and therefore what you might need to shift,” she added.
The Leadership in Action conference comes as the CDB completes its Public Policy Analysis and Management (PPAM) and Project Cycle Management training programmes in its 19 borrowing member countries.
Describing the programme as ambitious, CDB’s Vice President of Operations Monica La Bennett said it was aimed at improving the management, monitoring and implementation of policies, programmes and projects across the Caribbean.
“We delivered it in just over two years, engaging directly with over 2,000 civil servants in face-to-face training in every borrowing member country,” she said.
The programme was led by the London-based training and development company Dods Training.
Reflecting on the training programmes, former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance Juanita Thorington-Powlett said public sector workers complained about a number of challenges they said were limiting the transformation needed in the public sector and for policies to be implemented.
Adding that the challenges were the same across the region, she said they ranged from workers not getting along with their bosses, to a perception of political interference.
She said workers also complained about “a lot of square pegs in round holes”, about feeling hurt “because of the kinds of things” that are happening to them, and others complained about stalled projects, poor accommodation and poor communication.
“That was the first interesting thing I saw,” said Thorington-Powlett.
She said several of the public sector workers came to the training sessions with a lot of skepticism, but once they realized they were in “a safe space” with the trainers, the transformation started to take place.
Meanwhile, Dodds Associate Katie Driver said among the public sector challenges in the region were slow implementation and limited resources, which she described as “a vicious cycle”.
She also pointed to a perception of too much political interference and lack of adequate data.
“I hope that what we were offering started to allow people to see a new direction and have the tools and the confidence to move things ahead,” said Driver.