Strategy for a new Barbados unveiled


THERE IS A BLUEPRINT for a national transformation of Barbados that would involve reform of the public sector, business and the trade unions.
The plan was developed in the past year by a group consisting of trade unionists, business leaders and concerned citizens who brainstormed on what it would take to embark on a process of national transformation since they recognized that this was urgently needed here.
And on Tuesday night at the second People’s Assembly organized by the Barbados Labour Party at the Christ Church Foundation School, retired diplomat and permanent secretary Dr Peter Laurie unveiled their strategy in a crisp presentation before an audience of hundreds.
Laurie said Barbados was in the throes of a crisis that if left unresolved, could cause the country to implode.
That crisis was Barbados’ model of societal governance which was more profound than the economic and fiscal one people most often spoke about.
This deeper crisis was at the same time “a crisis of structure and a crisis of values” and it threatened to undermine one of the most important factors that had made Barbados successful – the high level of social trust.
Decades of trust
“The reason we’ve remained politically stable and economically viable since Independence is trust.
The reason our society weathered the 1992-94 economic and political crisis is trust. The reason we’ve managed to keep our currency pegged to the US dollar for decades is trust.
“It’s trust that makes Barbados a relatively well-governed and safe place to live. It’s the glue that holds a society together. Without trust a society can easily implode: collapse into mediocrity or descend into chaos with everyone breaking for themselves. This would destroy the ethical basis of our society and trash all our values.
“So if we don’t address the crisis we currently face, we will see a loss of social trust and all the consequences that entail,” warned Laurie, an elected member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
He said if Barbadians were being honest they would recognize that half of the statutory organizations here had little reason to exist.
He blamed the bloated public sector on what he termed “an unholy alliance between patronage-bestowing ministers and empire-building permanent secretaries”.
Radical change
Laurie also chastised both the trade unions and private sector for their shortcomings. He told the former they needed to recognize that protecting the interests of workers needed to be rethought in a world in which the nature of work and employment was radically changing.
And he lamented that the management skills and service attitudes in the private sector left a lot to be desired. But the published writer noted all was not lost for Barbados if decisive action was taken now. “All we need is the vision, the will to achieve and specific measurable goals to guide us.”
Thereafter, he unveiled the blueprint for national transformation within six years, or by 2020. It calls for a reduction of the size of the public service by 25 per cent.
This could be achieved, said Laurie, “by hiving off activities to the private sector, a recruitment freeze, not filling vacant posts, redeployment within the public service, and voluntary retirement schemes by which staff in designated grades could leave the Civil Service voluntarily with immediate retirement benefits and compensation. There need not be any mandatory layoffs”.
Secondly, he proposed a cut in half the average time it takes to issue a permission or approval, or to deliver a service.
This might be achieved by ministries or departments making greater use of information technology, re-engineering and streamlining service delivery processes, and setting up virtual networks of all players involved in each regulatory or service delivery process.
He said every citizen should have the right to know exactly at what stage his or her application was at all times.  
Amend regulations
As far as the private sector was concerned, one target might be to increase the management skills in that sector to international standards.  
Another proposal was to reduce the time for delivering professional legal services by 50 per cent. If necessary, he added, amend regulations that required legal involvement in routine business processes.
A fourth was to ensure Barbados had the cheapest and highest bandwidth in the region. And that greater digitization and exports via broadband connection of professional services, such as legal, accounting, medical, engineering, architectural, design, music and financial, should be promoted.
For the trade union movement, Laurie proposed that while continuing to defend the interests of workers as its main goal, they should also seek to work closely with employers to address issues such as identifying and removing restrictive labour practices, lowering operating costs, increasing productivity, worker participation in the management of enterprises, and joint investment promotion with business.
“So targets in that sector might include improving national productivity by five per cent annually. Reducing absenteeism in the workplace to one-third of the current level by 2020.
“By 2020 creating meaningful profit sharing and productivity schemes which would make up approximately 25 per cent of average pay. This would result in more and better jobs,” declared Laurie.
He said a task force should be established to oversee this process.
It should be developed through the Social Partnership in meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and consist of 12 of the best and the brightest to guide it.
He added that when the task force came up with such a blueprint and had consulted widely on it, then it should be compared with the existing public service and work out a plan from how to get from here to there.
“The advantage of this approach is that you start by thinking outside the box and avoid the trap to make more efficient an entity that should not exist in the first place,” said Laurie, who stressed that it would have to be approved ultimately by the social partners and Parliament. (SP)


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