Friday, April 12, 2024

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: All hands on deck . . .


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We certainly need “all hands on deck” to bring Barbados back on course, but rather than contributing in a practical way and encouraging teamwork, some seem bent on divisiveness (racial and otherwise) which can only lead us further into troubled waters. Of course, it would also help if we knew our true position and were confident that our captain had a compass and he and his officers had a map indicating our preferred destination.
I agree with Mark Maloney’s suggestions for Barbadians to make positive changes for personal and national good. They brought back memories of the Barbados of yesteryear, before we allowed external influences to take over our country, before we were led to believe that our main goal must be to be achieve “developed country status”, but with our own selective definition of “developed”; that is, materialism, living above one’s means, corruption, wasting rather than conserving, greed, callousness, indiscipline, false pride, a taste for foreign products and so on.
It won’t be easy to make these changes, since we’ve been led so far along this path that it’s difficult even to get a community to work together, far less the nation. But each one of us must persevere to make it happen. A tangible suggestion by one businessman is that each larger company adopt and mentor three smaller companies in an effort to bring about much needed growth in the economy. I’m sure that others in the private sector have other useful ideas.
Although I doubt whether we’ve heard the whole truth, we know that our position is dire. But has there really been any change in the way Government is operating? Far from decreasing, Government’s expenditure (which had already increased in 2012/13) increased again during the first six months of this year. Borrowing continues until we’re now paying 32 cents out of every dollar earned in debt interest.
Government must lead by example. Every aspect of spending must be looked at and trimmed or even cut completely. Overseas travel, to my mind, has always been excessive – especially when communications technology is readily available and is always being promoted by Government. What’s wrong with teleconferencing instead of entourages travelling first class around the world, using limousines and staying in luxury suites? It’s not only excessive expenditure but foreign exchange expenditure.
It is alleged that Minister Sinckler was unclear as to what caused the foreign exchange dip. Maybe this is part of the answer. One always hears what a sacrifice politicians make by becoming representatives of the people, but nowadays it rather seems to be a lucrative business with extravagant perks.
I’m told that many countries in a similar position have accepted that they can no longer attend these international meetings, but apparently we’re too proud to admit that we can’t afford this lifestyle. While the older generation sat back and accepted this behaviour, younger taxpayers are asking for some accountability. They want to see, in black and white, details of how much money is squandered on this type of activity while they are continually asked to bear the burden of increased taxation.
We need to act now in areas like energy cost and foreign investment, which can have immediate impact, while in parallel developing longer term strategies.  Why is the Barbados Light & Power made to pay world market prices for the oil produced locally? Why has the Petrocaribe agreement not been considered? Why are we still creating stumbling blocks to international business? 
If we want to bring about the miracle that’s required to stabilize us, we must all show the kind of loyalty and determination the British people showed in World War II under Churchill’s excellent leadership.
When their troops were driven into a corner in France and were in grave danger of being annihilated by the Germans, over 900 boats, from fishing boats to pleasure craft travelled from all over England across the Channel to assist the British battleships in getting the troops from Dunkirk back to England.
This entirely volunteer effort, with boats owned and crewed by civilians from all walks of life, evacuated 200 000 soldiers in four days in what was described as the Miracle of Dunkirk,  clearly demonstrating that where there’s a will, there’s a way. We, too, with good leadership, can band together and achieve such a miracle with our economy.
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator.


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