Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Dr Derek Alleyne
It is fashionable for defenders of the government to forget the dismissal by MAM and her opposition of the Stuart administration’s claim that the recession of the first decade of this century was having major impacts on the local economy.
However, Barbadians are aware that this country does not exist in a vacuum and that any rebound from the current state of depression would require not only local policy prescriptions but be influenced by what happens in the international economy
Notwithstanding the interdependency of the world economy states must however design policy instruments that can aid their own recovery. Key to states’ recovery plans is the embracement of local stakeholders in the planning exercise.
One would be forgiven if the conclusion was drawn that Barbados, through the existence of a social partnership, was well placed to move the planning exercises forward. Nothing could be further from reality as the social partnership in Barbados met only twice in 2020 (June and November) and there seems to be no urgency in getting the partners together to chart a path for the current challenges and those that will inevitably flow from the drop in economic activity.
Dr Don Marshall has floated across the social media some prescriptive ideas about moving past COVID-19. More recently Barbadian economist Carlos Forte has identified some of the likely challenges and has offered some options to dampen the impact and to move forward. Former Minister in the Owen Arthur administration Anthony Wood has critiqued both articles and has made some suggestions about the way forward.
In a daily newspaper columnist Wild Coot offered his assessment of the debt situation and provided some insights about some of the challenges and options that government must consider.
Yet the MAM administration after accusing the last administration of not communicating with the population has remained silent of any prescriptions to deal with the worsening situation in Barbados.
What has been in evidence has been the penchant of the Mottley government to throw scarce taxpayers’ money at every problem. Examples that come to mind include: visitors who have had bad experiences are to be compensated; hazard money is to paid to select groups and special people are to be added to the public purse for providing public relations functions.
In all these pronouncements the absence of social dialogue has been glaring. In fact, the unions both workers and the employers have been complaining about the level of disruption to their membership but this government seems determined to engage the public only in public relations exercise while ignoring the value of social dialogue with partners sworn to meet, diagnose and prescribe.
The problem has become clear that this Government has exhibited the tendency of presenting policies and programs designed by political consultants and special advisers. Much stock was placed on the performance of two flag ship initiatives BERT and BOSS but with the absence of published performance indicators and no performance reports from the Government, the jury is still out on the impact those initiatives have had on the socioeconomic conditions. For sure increases in unemployment, low productivity, declines in business activities and generally non-performance of the productive sectors have been the reality for the last nine months.
While admitting that the Government has been caught up with trying to manage the impact of the pandemic, no evidence of planning for recovery has been rolled out by Government. Sometime in May a list of names and committees was circulated but alas no information about any plans has been circulated to the partners or to the general public. Could someone please shed some light on what plans are afoot for the recovery?
Richardson, B. (2015). Earning the right to influence presented at a global conference in London warned policymakers about automatically assuming that the stakeholders in your project or program will be persuaded by the brilliance of your rationale or the righteousness of your cause. He urged policymakers to “engage with them with the attitude that you have to demonstrate your worthy intent”. This warning is particularly critical in environments where political divisions are prevalent.
Mottley and her band have taken this pandemic and made it into a colossal catastrophe. There have been episodes of initiatives, reversals like the appointment of a Czar and his dismissal; the announcement and then disappearance of special committees including the Elizabeth Thompson quartet; the prominence and then absence of point persons and the tiredness and then resurgence of the Prime Minister that all point to government by trial and error.
In all this confusion the social partnership mechanism designed to bring all interests together to provide opportunities to dialogue, to analyze, to collaborate and to come up with prescriptions that bear the imprint of all interests has been abandoned because all roads must lead to MAM and all other players are unimportant unless they march to her drum beat.
Dr Derek Alleyne is a trade unionist, social commentator and member of the Democratic