Month: March 2016

Saving them from Themselves

Barbadian voters elect persons to represent their interests in Parliament.  Therefore, persons seeking election should be both capable and willing to represent the public interest.  Voters are responsible for judging the capabilities of the various candidates by reviewing their past achievements.  If voters knowingly select the least capable candidates, then it is fair to conclude that the people got the government that they deserved – suck the salt and do not complain.

Voters cannot assess the willingness of candidates in a similar manner.  It is entirely reasonable for voters to assume that since they are willing candidates, then they will also be willing parliamentary representatives.  However, this assumption has not proven to be true.

Opposition parliamentarians and political scientists in Barbados have repeatedly explained to the public, that nationally important but unpopular decisions are being delayed until enough politicians qualify for their lucrative pensions.  If this is true, then it would seem that the love of money was the root that tempted them into elective politics, rather than a willingness to serve.  Well, good for them – but bad for the rest of us.

The parliamentarian’s pension was designed to ensure that those who qualify do not have to seek employment once they reach the age of 50.  A charitable interpretation of the intent of this lucrative arrangement is that it allows parliamentarians to represent the interests of the public, without fear of the financial consequences that would normally affect their future earnings.  An example may suffice.

An individual with knowledge of major corrupt practises in the construction, or tourism or sugar industry, may find it difficult to gain employment after making the evidence public.  The lucrative pension arrangement for parliamentarians allows them to be the conduit through which justice may be pursued, without them having to worry about the impact that their actions may have on their future earnings.

This intent is not being realised in Barbados.  Parliamentarians frequently allege questionable behaviour by other politicians and companies.  The police are available to determine whether any allegations can justify a charge, and the courts are available to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to justify an offense.

Perhaps someone can remind me of a single instance since our Independence, when a parliamentarian has ever represented the public interest by taking any evidence of such wrong doing to the police.  What appears to be the norm is that politicians typically use the allegations to publically embarrass their political opponents and to smear companies.

Alleged evidence has been waved around at political meetings, made documents of the House, printed in newspapers, but never, to my knowledge, taken to the police.  This appears reckless.  If companies operating in Barbados have broken our laws, then there is a legal process to be followed, and it does not involve publically smearing them.  Defamed companies are in an unfortunate situation.  If they seek to clear their name through the Defamation Act, it may affect their business if the political party in question wins the next election.  If they choose not to clear their name, then it remains forever smeared.  That cannot be fair.

If politicians do not bring their evidence of wrongdoing to the police, then the security of the lucrative pension is not protecting them from the consequences of their heroic representation, but rewarding them for reckless behaviour.  That cannot be proper.

This protection was necessary for representatives who confronted the financial interests that wanted to maintain slavery, restrict voting rights, suppress women’s rights, etc.  However, such protection was not in place for those heroes.  Parliamentarians passed this legislation to benefit only themselves after Independence, when the national battles for enfranchisement had already been fought and won.

The approximately 45-year experiment of rewarding politicians with lucrative lifetime pensions after a relatively short time in office has taught us some very painful lessons.  The least of which is that politicians who have qualified for their pensions have no incentive to improve their behaviour.

The debates in parliament should be exemplars for us all.  Instead, we must endure the almost constant disruptive and disrespectful cross-talk, the innuendo, and the pleadings by the Speaker for parliamentarians to behave themselves.  At political meetings, where the Speaker is not present to restrain them, well … you already know.

Any other person who behaved in a similar manner would certainly damage their reputations and likely become unemployable.  However, our pensioned parliamentarians appear oblivious to the damage that they do to their reputations.

Should parliamentarians receive a pension?  Of course they should.  However, how do we pay them an equitable pension while also removing this temptation that appears to so easily beset honourable men and women?  Perhaps removing the lifetime arrangement, and making a reasonable contribution to their private sector managed Registered Retirement Savings Plans only while they are in office, may save them, and us, from themselves.

Saving them from Themselves

Barbadian voters elect persons to represent their interests in Parliament.  Therefore, persons seeking election should be both capable and willing to represent the public interest.  Voters are responsible for judging the capabilities of the various candidates by reviewing their past achievements.  If voters knowingly select the least capable candidates, then it is fair to conclude that the people got the government that they deserved – suck the salt and do not complain.

Voters cannot assess the willingness of candidates in a similar manner.  It is entirely reasonable for voters to assume that since they are willing candidates, then they will also be willing parliamentary representatives.  However, this assumption has not proven to be true.

Opposition parliamentarians and political scientists in Barbados have repeatedly explained to the public, that nationally important but unpopular decisions are being delayed until enough politicians qualify for their lucrative pensions.  If this is true, then it would seem that the love of money was the root that tempted them into elective politics, rather than a willingness to serve.  Well, good for them – but bad for the rest of us.

The parliamentarian’s pension was designed to ensure that those who qualify do not have to seek employment once they reach the age of 50.  A charitable interpretation of the intent of this lucrative arrangement is that it allows parliamentarians to represent the interests of the public, without fear of the financial consequences that would normally affect their future earnings.  An example may suffice.

An individual with knowledge of major corrupt practises in the construction, or tourism or sugar industry, may find it difficult to gain employment after making the evidence public.  The lucrative pension arrangement for parliamentarians allows them to be the conduit through which justice may be pursued, without them having to worry about the impact that their actions may have on their future earnings.

This intent is not being realised in Barbados.  Parliamentarians frequently allege questionable behaviour by other politicians and companies.  The police are available to determine whether any allegations can justify a charge, and the courts are available to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to justify an offense.

Perhaps someone can remind me of a single instance since our Independence, when a parliamentarian has ever represented the public interest by taking any evidence of such wrong doing to the police.  What appears to be the norm is that politicians typically use the allegations to publically embarrass their political opponents and to smear companies.

Alleged evidence has been waved around at political meetings, made documents of the House, printed in newspapers, but never, to my knowledge, taken to the police.  This appears reckless.  If companies operating in Barbados have broken our laws, then there is a legal process to be followed, and it does not involve publically smearing them.  Defamed companies are in an unfortunate situation.  If they seek to clear their name through the Defamation Act, it may affect their business if the political party in question wins the next election.  If they choose not to clear their name, then it remains forever smeared.  That cannot be fair.

If politicians do not bring their evidence of wrongdoing to the police, then the security of the lucrative pension is not protecting them from the consequences of their heroic representation, but rewarding them for reckless behaviour.  That cannot be proper.

This protection was necessary for representatives who confronted the financial interests that wanted to maintain slavery, restrict voting rights, suppress women’s rights, etc.  However, such protection was not in place for those heroes.  Parliamentarians passed this legislation to benefit only themselves after Independence, when the national battles for enfranchisement had already been fought and won.

The approximately 45-year experiment of rewarding politicians with lucrative lifetime pensions after a relatively short time in office has taught us some very painful lessons.  The least of which is that politicians who have qualified for their pensions have no incentive to improve their behaviour.

The debates in parliament should be exemplars for us all.  Instead, we must endure the almost constant disruptive and disrespectful cross-talk, the innuendo, and the pleadings by the Speaker for parliamentarians to behave themselves.  At political meetings, where the Speaker is not present to restrain them, well … you already know.

Any other person who behaved in a similar manner would certainly damage their reputations and likely become unemployable.  However, our pensioned parliamentarians appear oblivious to the damage that they do to their reputations.

Should parliamentarians receive a pension?  Of course they should.  However, how do we pay them an equitable pension while also removing this temptation that appears to so easily beset honourable men and women?  Perhaps removing the lifetime arrangement, and making a reasonable contribution to their private sector managed Registered Retirement Savings Plans only while they are in office, may save them, and us, from themselves.

Either All In or Fail

Perhaps the most common accusation thrown at any ruling political party in Barbados is mismanagement.  Why?  Because politicians are elected to properly manage the affairs of the country, and when government services are poorly managed, then the criticisms of mismanagement are justified.

Every government service is an easy target of the accusation because when compared to the private sector, governments rarely run services as efficiently.  But why does it have to be like this?  Why can’t the government manage public services better?

To be fair, it is not for lack of trying.  Three main initiatives are being tried, namely: statutory boards, public sector reform initiatives, and the National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE).  However, without success.

The Statutory Board initiative seemed like a good idea of semi-privatising government services.  There was a Board of Directors who managed Executive Officers, who then managed middle managers, who then managed the workers.  With so much management, how could it not succeed – but fail it did, and miserably as objectively reported by the Auditor General.  That failed experiment was, and continues to be unsustainably costly.  The simple lesson that is begging to be learnt is that you cannot reap the fruits of privatisation from the tree of partial privatisation.  Our costly field trial has shown us that the only two options are to go all in or fail.

The next good idea was public sector reform.  That too has not borne good fruit because the reforms were only superficial – they did not address the cancer slowly destroying the efficiency of the public service.  It is not public sector reform that is needed, but public sector surgery – albeit minor

This cancer was introduced in 1974 when the public service was intentionally changed from being a place where people were hired and promoted based on merit, to one based on whether people found favour with the political party in government.  The change did not occur overnight, but our public service degraded from being one of the most professional worldwide to one of the most political.

There were many consequences of this change – all of them bad.  Public servants were put in the unfair position of having the public wonder whether they achieved their post through demonstrated competence, or whether they were ‘sent’ because of their political party affiliation.  Competent employees can be frustrated when poorly managed by an incompetent ‘sent’, and incompetent ‘sents’ being managed by an incompetent ‘sent’ can result in confusion and abysmal service.

This failed 40-year experiment has taught us an important lesson – if it is not broke, then do not attempt to fix it.  Fortunately, by carefully removing the political cancer introduced in 1974, and allowing the public service to return to its professional roots can only benefit the public sector employees, and the general public whom they serve.  To continue with this failed experiment is to grow the apathy and frustration felt by public servants who are aware that they work in a poisoned system, where it is unlikely that they will ever be promoted on merit alone

And now we come to the National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE), a public-private sector initiative that was a bad idea from the start.  As we learnt before, it is either all in or failure.  NISE had obvious structural defects that prevented it from being successful, and it was explicitly warned about them.

NISE focused on satisfying customers by improving the pleasantness of the employees who interacted with the customers at the point of delivery.  The highest international quality management standard is ISO 9001.  This standard focuses on satisfying customers by improving the quality of the product, which is done by continually improving the management of how the product is developed and delivered.  A few examples should suffice.

a)  I do not go to the Town Planning department to have a pleasant conversation with their secretary (NISE approach), but to have my application processed quickly (ISO 9001 approach).

b)  I do not go to the bank to have a pleasant conversation with their teller (NISE), but to transact my business accurately and quickly (ISO 9001).

c)  I do not go to a car dealership to have a pleasant conversation with their receptionist (NISE), but to have my car serviced properly and promptly (ISO 9001).

That the Private Sector continues to embrace this failed approach after 10 years of incontrovertible evidence, perfectly explains why so many formerly Barbadian owned businesses are now foreign owned, and why Barbadians have generally reverted to the mind-set of aspiring to the highest office of overseer.

Hold On Barbados – Help is on the Way.

Dear Editor:

For decades, it has been well known that the main cause of the problems within the public service is poor management.  Every year, we are subjected to ever growing examples of poor management within the: judiciary, transport board, health, education, road maintenance, etc.  On and on for decades, and yet the solution is obvious and simple.

There are international standards for just about every activity, from mixing concrete to managing public services.  The international standard for managing services is the ISO 9001.  When some East Asian nations became independent near the time of our independence, they recognised their management deficiencies and founded their economies on quality management.

Fortuitously, we did not have that problem, having inherited one of the best managed public services on the planet.  However, rather than improving that legacy, we squandered it by following the lead of despots in some South American, African and Middle Eastern nations.  We politicised our civil service thus guaranteeing its inefficiency and financial unsustainability.  From being perhaps the most prepared, and thus the most likely to succeed as an independent nation, we are on the path the being the one most likely to fail.

I have actively encouraged the Government to adopt the international quality management system for the past 15 years, and have come to the realization that lobbying for change is perhaps the most inefficient method for those not politically connected.  Therefore, we have formed Solutions Barbados, published workable solutions to the main problems hindering Barbados’ development (on SolutionsBarbados.com), and plan to implement them following the next general election.  Hold on Barbados, help is on the way.

Training to Manage Our National Economy

Dear Editor:

Approximately once every 5 years, Barbadians select persons to manage their national affairs.  At the time of our independence, we received a debt-free island with well-maintained pubic infrastructure.  Fifty years later, our public services are generally poorly managed, and we are risking losing our country as a result of our unsustainable national debt.  During periods in Barbados when money appeared to be plentiful, we mistakenly thought that our national economy was being properly managed.  However, it takes no special competence to uneconomically spend borrowed money.

It normally takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice for persons to operate at an expert level.  Therefore, it would seem that successfully managing a business, with about 10 employees for about 10 years, should adequately prepare an individual to manage our national affairs.  To my knowledge, none of Barbados’ ministers of Government have ever come close to this minimum standard of preparation.

I do not blame any past or current member of Barbados’ parliament for the current state of our national affairs.  Rather, they deserve our deep gratitude.  When we had to elect persons to manage the national economy, they were the ones who stepped forward.  At the end of each election cycle, they graciously demitted office and admirably accepted the will of the electorate.

If anyone is to blame for the abysmal state of Barbados’ national affairs, it is those who were adequately prepared for national service, but refused to step forward.  Thus, they deprived Barbados of their skills and left the electorate to choose from among a group of unprepared, but willing candidates.

Barbados is fortunate to have had exemplary employers who have effectively trained and cared for their employees as they managed successful businesses.  They willingly chose less corporate profits in order to maintain their employees during economically challenging times, and rewarded them for their productivity during times of plenty.

Those employers were adequately prepared to manage Barbados’ economy.  However, rather than fulfilling their national duty, they generally ignored the call.  They ought to be utterly ashamed of themselves, and are ultimately responsible for forcing Barbadians to select people who were simply not prepared to manage national affairs.

There is no shame if the electorate chooses others to lead.  That is the governance system within which we operate, and the same voters, and their children, have to live with the consequences of their choices.  However, to provide them with fair choices, it is the responsibility of the most demonstrably competent and caring employers to offer themselves as candidates in each general election.  How else can a small independent country with few natural resources be properly managed?

Our politics has now degenerated into career politicians desperately trying to convince Barbadians that all is well while we are being drowned in debt, taxes and downgrades.  It is long-past time to relieve our career politicians from this burden, but thank them for their efforts.  I am publically calling all employers with the requisite preparation to review the solutions at SolutionsBarbados.com, and then contact us with the intention of being candidates in the next general elections