The current austere socio-economic situation in Barbados presents the country’s political leadership with an opportunity to rethink the necessity for our inflated constituency allocations. For such a miniscule country and small economy, burdening taxpayers with the provision of salaries for thirty individuals irrespective of the parliamentary split and their skill sets or lack thereof, is a tad too much. Though Barbados’ present political leadership cannot be blamed for this situation, it surely can do something about it.
Indeed, should Prime Minister Mia Mottley look at constituency reform and make parliamentary representation more relevant to our modern realities, changing the present status quo has the potential to be one of her lasting legacies. It would demonstrate an aptitude towards putting the country’s interest before that of simply “finding jobs for the boys”. Politics should not be primarily about sourcing employment for politicians and their fawners. Unfortunately, this has been the reality in Barbados and more than likely throughout the Caribbean.
We cannot trumpet productivity and development, encourage average citizens to make best use of their time, skills and energies, and then exist within a governance system that promotes idleness and irrelevance through sheer weight of political numbers. The recent appointment of St Michael East MP Trevor Prescod to the position of special adviser and special envoy on reparations and economic enfranchisement, provides some evidence of a situation where the political leadership feels duty-bound to “find a job” for a member of elected government. And this dilemma starts with our eleven parishes being unnecessarily divided into thirty constituencies.
The firing or removal of Mr Prescod as Minister of the Environment and National Beautification can be interpreted in many ways. It could be a situation that he was viewed as a failure or lost the confidence of the Cabinet to carry out his mandate. After all, being stripped of ministerial oversight and not being reshuffled to another ministry does not equate to an overwhelming demonstration of confidence in one’s performance.
But the irony is that if one became a bad fit for a particular ministry, to be subsequently assigned as special envoy on reparations and economic enfranchisement suggests something about the individual as well as the new posting. Perhaps Mr Prescod was not such a ministerial misfit. Perhaps the new posting is one that is not being taken that seriously if it is to be manned by a ministerial reject. Confidence in an individual is not conditional, you either have it or you don’t. Thus, if Mr Prescod was not the man for his last or any other ministerial job, what makes him the man for this new assignment? Or, is this nebulous posting simply a burden placed on the Prime Minister to find something for Mr Prescod to do where his salary would not take the hit that is likely from losing the ministry?
Mr Prescod will be working on a ten-point plan that only the staunchest, most blinkered party supporter will not see its vagueness. Part of his remit as stated by Miss Mottley is “closing the circle of enfranchisement locally and helping us to reach groups and individuals who have traditionally been left on the sidelines and outside of the grasp of opportunities.” These are beautiful sounding words but that is all they are. Athenian poet Aristophanes once said that by words, the mind is winged. We hear this explanation and it attempts to give solidity to something that is really amorphous. The question must be asked: Isn’t government in its totality responsible for the tasks assigned to Mr Prescod? Part of Mr Prescod’s duties relate to, but are not confined to: education programmes; the establishment of cultural institutions and the return of cultural heritage; psychological rehabilitation; and the right to development through the use of technology. Stilted gobbledygook for winged minds! In every instance, there is a ministry of government with duplicate ministers, permanent secretaries, technocrats, even idle consultants in some cases, tasked with responsibilities that mirror Mr Prescod’s mandate.
We support the idea of reparations for all the injustices emanating from the slave trade. But that chapter in history should not be used as a pathway to an employment bureau. The point we make here is that Prime Minister Mottley or any other political leader has to stretch the people’s credulity significantly to posit Mr Prescod’s posting as anything other than finding a job for one of the boys. And this headache starts with government’s size. The situation has been made even more a burden for our Prime Minister by her overwhelming numbers in Parliament. Everyone must eat and the more they eat the happier they will be and their support more assured. In times of plenty citizens often overlook such excesses and there has hardly ever been a whimper when constituency boundaries were realigned and more added to the cluster.
It has been said that government degenerates when entrusted to the rulers of the people alone, and that the people themselves are its only safe depositories. With unemployment approaching 50 per cent, taxation heading through the roof and certain social services becoming more difficult to access, political patronage has silenced the tongues of those well-placed to call for strategic reforms. We suggest a starting point at constituency changes in an environment where there is little evidence that division of parishes into multiple constituencies has equated into better stewardship. Rectifying this could elevate our astute leader above the average politician.
One Reply to “#BTEditorial – When one has to find work ‘for the boys’”