Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Dr Peter Laurie
Now that the election is over and the governing Barbados Labour Party has won another resounding mandate, here are some things I would like to see happen in the next few years, in no particular order.
I hope and pray that the DLP rises from the ashes of defeat to present us yet again with a viable alternative.
The political, economic, and social stability of Barbados has depended since the 1950s on our having two major political parties peacefully alternating in office.
One of these parties has now been soundly trounced in two successive general elections. Third parties have never succeeded because they have no organisational roots in the community and are usually vehicles for personal aggrandisement.
It’s essential to transform the public sector. All efforts at public sector reform hitherto have been largely cosmetic and ineffectual. It’s not the employees, it’s the system.
This requires a bold leap into the future. Once again, we have the talent to design from scratch what kind of public sector a future Barbados requires both for economic prosperity, social justice and cultural development.
Once we have the blueprint, we must create a detailed timetable for getting to the desired goal from the current hodgepodge of public ministries and other entities cluttering our political landscape.
This will inevitably result in a reduction in size, not to mention cost, of the public sector and should therefore be implemented humanely over five years.
Related to the foregoing is the implementation of a guaranteed universal basic annual income (UBI). I note that both major parties have begun discussing this seriously.
A UBI has become all the more relevant today because of the growing decoupling of income and employment in the digitalised economy. But UBI has to be gradually implemented in sync with the transformation of the public sector.
When you think of it, the public sector is in fact a guaranteed basic income, though not universal.
So if you reduce the cost of the public sector by 20 per cent and consolidate all the various social welfare programmes, you have the means for financing the UBI. Research has shown that if people have basic economic security they tend overwhelmingly to be more entrepreneurial and innovative, contrary to the demeaning notion that workers are inherently lazy.
The proposal to reform our constitution should focus on reinforcing human rights, democratic participation in governance, and transparency and accountability in both government and business.
So, it’s essential: to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation; to strengthen the oversight of the executive by the legislature; to have elections publicly scheduled and not at the whim of the prime minister; to change the present ‘first-past-post’ electoral system to a ‘mixed-member-proportional’ system, as in New Zealand, that allows voters to cast a ballot for a constituency representative as well as a political party; and to create mechanisms for ongoing citizen participation.
After almost 60 years, CBC should be mercifully and humanely put down. It should be transformed into a platform for local artistic productions, documentaries, and topical discussion programmes that will inform and entertain.
We have a wealth of talent and the technical sophistication in Barbados to easily achieve this.
Finally, Bajans should understand once and for all that Barbados has always been since Independence a republic (a state governed by elected representatives of the people), and that all that, constitutionally, we have done so far is exchange our British head of state for a Bajan head of state.
So many commentators have assailed this decision as having been taken dictatorially without wide public consultation that I wonder whether they are opposed to a Bajan as our ceremonial head of state or they have a hidden agenda.