Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Harvest time for the wheats and tares


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HOW GOOD to see Monsignor Vincent in positive, upbeat mood on Mornin’ Barbados like a fresh breeze scattering gloomy clouds. Let us therefore do a parody on a parable:
The sector of public is like unto a good government which hired willing workers to do its business. But while men slept sundry politicians sowed yardfowls among the willing workers and went their way. Soon they were so mixed up like the wheats and tares in the Bible that it would have been impossible to separate the good from the useless.
“They are an army of occupation,” lamented one frustrated Prime Minister. And neither he, nor any of his successors, had the guts to deal with the problem. The one PM who dared cut their salaries to save the country economically was sent packing.
However, a little country cannot support an army of occupation indefinitely. The harvest time has come for the wheat and the tares, the quick and the idle, and the current leader stands at the crossroads of history. He would get the full backing of all right-thinking citizens should he take the bull by the horns and make a clean sweep.
Unfortunately, the leader of these times seems to prefer vacillation over adamancy and is more likely to take the horns by the bull. And while his finance minister would no doubt like to put his “money where his mouth is”, as the saying goes, he is getting licks for his efforts.
Let us stop beating around the bush. As a civil servant, I felt that energy-sapping civil service mentality taking over my very being. It kills your initiative. I recall working on an urgent project and you had to go through four or five different entities to buy a single bag of cement.
Thank heavens they brought in a new law making it compulsory to take vacation. I applied for my three months accumulated leave, resigned and went straight into a private sector job.
Later, as a government technical officer, I heard of phone calls: the minister is sending two women up to X plantation. See if the manager can find something for them to do.
Which being interpreted means: the already overstaffed manager must find jobs for the two ladies; they will do very little actual work; and he had better watch his mouth around them for they are MPs in their own right (Minister’s Picks) and may report his every remark.
Politicians and labour unions have wrought a terrible disservice on public sector workers in this island. There can be nothing more degrading, more demoralizing, than to go to work day after day and achieve nothing. To be a supervisor and have no authority to reward those who want to work (and, don’t fool yourself, there are excellent workers in the public sector) or to discipline those who don’t.
Dismantling our bloated, inefficient public sector is an act of necessity if we are to avoid devaluation and a considerable drop in our standard of living. But it would be an act of kindness to the workers themselves.
Why not return to responsible private bus companies operating to schedule – Rocklyn, Yonkers, Elite – not minibus and ZR madness? Why not have workers managing their own private firms being contracted to clean and maintain stretches of highway?
I once hired a government gang to pave my driveway in their own time one weekend. The transformation was unbelievable. Before they were a typical road gang, taking their time, resting on shovels. That weekend they were live wires. One portly fellow was actually running up and downhill with wheelbarrows of stone.
It’s all a matter of attitude and motivation.
I tend to support Owen Arthur’s stance at this juncture. Ten thousand eminent persons repeating how we are unproductive, have lived fat off the hog for too long, have produced little for export, have wasted valuable foreign exchange on materialistic junk, have bought into a corrupt system of political patronage… will get us nowhere. Far from it, no government is going to act on recommendations coming from an opposition initiative.
No, this is the current Government’s baby. The harvest is slight, the workers far too many. Either they stop vacillating and take the necessary corrective action. Or they take us to hell over Lancaster Bridge. 
•? Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email porkhoad@gmail.com  


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