Month: August 2017

Staring into the Abyss

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados recently hosted economist Ms Marla Dukharan, who determined that Barbados’ debt to GDP ratio was an insane 168%.  This places us as one of the most indebted nations on the planet.  To put this in perspective, the maximum limit which the IMF warned us not to cross in order to avoid severe austerity was 40%, so we are on the brink of economic ruin.

The main conclusions from Ms Dukharan’s presentation, was that Barbados’ economy has been managed to such a level of extreme incompetence that we have now run out of all good options.  The only options available to us are so horribly bad, that the severe austerity can only be described as, to use her word, “poison”.  Barbadians will soon long for the days when all we had to suck was salt.

She gave a glimpse of the utter misery that awaits us, by noting that the National Insurance Scheme will not likely be in a financial state to help the masses of Barbadians who are expected to swell the ranks of the unemployed.  The previous nine years of austerity have slowly bled most families of their savings.  Therefore, most Barbadians are currently in the most vulnerable situation imaginable.  It is as if we are being set-up for some sort of terrible judgement.

Why did the BLP get us in this unsustainable debt where the only option was severe austerity?  Why did the DLP not take us into the severe austerity nine years ago when the NIS and our savings could have cushioned the worst of it?  Some say that we should not review the past, but focus on the future.  We are focusing on the future; but voters need to understand that the forecasted austerity was entirely unnecessary.

We have reached this point because of the failure of the BLP and DLP to properly manage the national economy.  We all need to be reminded of that fact just in case there is only one Barbadian who is lunatic enough to push Barbados’ economy over the proverbial edge.  He needs to be fully aware of what he will do to our children.  He needs to be entirely without any excuse, because his irresponsible decision will certainly result in weeping, gnashing of teeth, and hunger for many Barbadians.

Marla is partially correct.  Barbadians will suffer the poison of the most severe austerity, but only if they vote for the BLP or the DLP in the next general election.  Their development philosophies are no longer relevant to Barbados’ high-debt economy.  She recommended that we approach the IMF with dispatch and take the inevitable poison.  As the Les Miserables song goes, “Some will fall and some will live” – but how?

Ms Dukharan did not review Solutions Barbados’ plans.  This is most regrettable given her conclusions and recommendations.  Solutions Barbados is the only political party with an economic plan that does not include the forecasted austerity.  It was published for rigorous public scrutiny over two years ago.  Given our precarious economic situation, why would she fail to review the only non-austerity plan on the table before concluding that severe austerity is inevitable?

Mr Charles Herbert, leader of the Barbados Private Sector Association, explained their utter frustration with extremely poorly managed government services, and the lack of urgency in addressing Barbados’ critical management problems.  He made an impassioned plea for better management.

He is aware of Solutions Barbados’ plan to manage Barbados’ public services to the international management standard, ISO 9001.  The moderator, Mr David Ellis, reminded him and the audience that Solutions Barbados had been recommending this management standard for some time.  I reminded Mr Ellis and the audience that I had been recommending this standard to the Government for the past 15 years.  Why complain about poor management, and then fail to mention this obvious and proven solution to poor management in the public sector?

Since every objective analyst has concluded that voting for either the BLP or DLP in the next general election will trigger the most severe and poisonous austerity for us and our children, why would anyone even contemplate voting for either of them in the next general election?

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Building High-maintenance Tombs

From my experience in working among people in post-hazard environments, I can conclude that a stable house is the most prized possession. I have witnessed the grateful expressions of relief among those whose houses survived the tragic events.  The contrasting near hopeless expressions of misery among those whose houses were destroyed were almost unbearable.

It was after my first deployment to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, that I finally understood that the primary purpose of an elected Government is to protect, as much as possible, the residents from foreseeable harm. It is for this reason why it is absolutely essential for each Government in the hazard prone Caribbean region to regulate the residential construction building industry in their country.

The Government of Barbados took the first step in trying to protect the public from certain post-hazard misery by publishing the Barbados National Building Code in 1993. That was a commendable achievement because at that time, Barbados was experiencing an economic recession and political turmoil. Fortuitously, the national building standard was in place for the unprecedented building boom that would commence one year later, in 1994.

It is a national disgrace that the Government of Barbados, against all expert advice, allowed an entirely unregulated 14-year residential construction building boom with respect to building standards. Of the thousands of houses built, almost all of them are vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake. It is to Barbados’ tragic misfortune that it would not have cost any additional money to have constructed the life-saving shear walls that the Building Code specified.

By 2010, the legacy of substandard residential construction was firmly established in Barbados. At the start of that year, an earthquake in Haiti had reportedly killed approximately 300,000 people. Near the end of that year, tropical storm Tomas examined Barbados and damaged over 1,500 houses. Following the visit to same damaged houses, our Prime Minister reportedly made the following accurate observation: “I have to confess that I was flabbergasted at the fragility of the housing accommodation in Barbados.” He then reportedly recommended that it was “absolutely necessary to impose building standards in Barbados”, before adding the bewildering idea that a building code was “actively under consideration”.  With such ministerial statements, a strong response was eagerly anticipated.

Approximately two years later, around the 20th anniversary of the initial publication of the National Building Code, the Government of Barbados took the strongest possible action unimaginable. Against expert advice, the Government abolished the only national standard designed to help builders construct a house that could survive earthquakes and hurricanes.

This act of utter stupidity placed Barbados in the unenviable position of being perhaps the only country on the planet that did not provide some type of structural building guidance to its residents. Even in the poorest country in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a homeowner could have found more relevant building standards than in Barbados. It is a national shame to which our apathy only encourages our Government to act more irresponsibly.

It simply does not make any sense – neither logical nor political.  Both political administrations participated in the folly.  Why would the BLP administration allow a 14-year unregulated building boom, despite repeated warnings of the fatal consequences?  Why would the DLP administration, despite acknowledging the fragility of Barbadian houses, then withdraw the only national building standard that could protect Barbadian households, despite repeated warnings of the fatal consequences? Should Barbados experience the inevitable major earthquake tomorrow, then these two actions, in retrospect, would be justifiably deemed unforgivable.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Blinded to the Obvious

I was hopeful and excited before the recent meeting of the Social Partnership.  All sides recognised that we were on the brink of economic ruin and they were anxious to find an effective solution.  They could not wait one more week.  Therefore, I highly commend the Government, Unions and the Private Sector for putting Barbados first.

Before the meeting, the Government repeatedly explained that they were desperate for a solution.  They had designed and implemented the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) as their best solution, and claimed to be willing to replace it with a better solution if one could be found.  I was impressed with this apparent change of attitude.

The DLP administration appeared to be finally maturing by willing to accept good advice.  This is in direct contrast of them generally following bad economic advice over the past 9 years.  They seemed oblivious to the fact that when they repeatedly failed, we repeatedly suffered.

The Private Sector representatives did not think that the NSRL would work.  They are correct.  Higher taxes will not result in greater economic growth, which is the obvious solution to Barbados’s unsustainable debt situation.

The Union representatives thought that the NSRL was too austere – it is too much of a bitter pill to swallow.  They are correct.  They suggested that the dosage be cut in half, to 5%.  The Government explained the consequences of reducing the NSRL.  Namely, that since it is now illegal to cut public workers’ salaries, the only option available to the Government was to send home up to 10,000 public workers.  This needs an explanation.

In 1991, the IMF directed the DLP administration to cut the cost of the civil service by $300M, or else.  Approximately 75% of public workers agreed to have their salaries reduced by 8% for 18 months.  With elections coming due, the BLP promised the workers that they would remove this option if they were elected.  They were elected and kept their promise.  Before it can be deemed a reckless promise, the BLP should explain why 92% of a persons’ salary is not preferred over 0%.

One of the principal aims of the meeting was for the Government to receive a better plan.  I was disappointed that after calling for an urgent meeting, a better plan was not proposed.  Clearly something went terribly wrong – for us.  Do they not understand that if a better plan is not proposed, then a severe austerity plan will be implemented?  Who really wants austerity?

The private sector businesses do not want austerity, because it will leave households with less money to spend in their businesses.  The unions do not want austerity, because Barbadian workers are already over-taxed, and to burden them with more taxes is unconscionable.  The Government does not want an austerity based solution because an over-taxed voter will not likely vote for them.  The public does not want any more austerity – we have had 9 years of austerity and that is more than enough.

The IMF does not want austerity because they would rather give money to countries with natural resources that can be privatised.  Our natural resources are mainly our people, and slavery was abolished approximately 180 years ago.  So who wants austerity?  The only one that wants Barbadians to suffer through an austerity based programme appears to be satan.

Solutions Barbados is the only political party with a non-austerity plan.  The meeting’s participants were desperate for a non-austerity plan, and most were aware of the Solutions Barbados plan.  The time has now come to ask why no one mentioned this most obvious solution, or an improvement of it, at the meeting.

I believe that the Government, Private Sector and Union representatives honestly want to bring quick relief to Barbadians who are suffering from political failures.  The solutions to these failures, and their implementation plans, have been published on SolutionsBarbados.com over two years ago.  But the meeting’s participants seemed temporarily blinded to them.  The only reason left to explain this blindness is spiritual.  The solution to that sort of blindness is also spiritual.  Pray Barbados.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

When They Fail, We Suffer

Our elected politicians are supposed to represent us.  When they fail in that primary duty, then the rest of us must suffer – grievously.  However, we do not simply suffer the damaging consequences.  We must also be over-taxed, not to pay to permanently fix the problems that were created by their failures, or to only maintain the high-maintenance environment created by their incompetence, but rather, to try to slow the slide into eventual ruin.

In the mid 1980’s, many boys were leaving secondary school with no evidence of having attended.  They had no legitimate marketable skills and started forming gangs.  Our politicians were warned about the emerging gang activity and were asked to do something about it.  Their response was to publicly announce that there were no gangs in Barbados.

The obvious solution was to modify the secondary school curriculum to allow all of our students to leave school with at least one marketable skill, so that they would have an alternative to trading in illegal drugs.  However, neither the BLP nor DLP administrations were willing to make the necessary changes.  Over 30 years later, the school curriculum still does not allow all of our students to leave school with marketable skills.  Therefore, gangs have a ready supply of new recruits.

In the early 1990’s, guns started flowing in to support the illegal drug trade, and shootings were becoming frequent.  Our politicians were warned about the increasing gun violence and Barbadians pleaded with them to do something about it.  The callous response was that it was simply criminals shooting each-other, or gang-on-gang violence.

The obvious solution was to charge all persons involved in the illegal distribution of a gun with the same offense as the final user.  Therefore, the importer, distributor, seller, and renter should all be charged with: murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, rape, theft, threats, illegal possession, or whatever the final user was charged with.  Neither the BLP nor DLP administrations would implement this effective deterrent. Instead, the guns flowed in, gun violence increased dramatically, and the innocent are being killed.

Near the late 1990’s, the problems with residential construction quality were getting out of control.  The Government was warned about the wave of substandard houses being constructed that were unlikely to survive an earthquake.  Fortuitously, the easy-to-understand Barbados National Building Code was published in 1993.  The obvious solution was to make compliance with the structural requirements of the Building Code a condition of Planning approval.

Both BLP and DLP administrations chose not to protect homeowners in this manner.  Thousands of substandard houses have subsequently been constructed in Barbados.  Inexcusably, the Government decided to withdraw the only building standard for residential construction, resulting in Barbados being perhaps the only nation on Earth that does not provide any sort of structural building guidance to residential contractors.  Thus, the Government is ensuring that most residential contractors unintentionally build only high-maintenance tombs for unsuspecting homeowners.

By the mid 1990’s, we were approaching the 40% of GDP debt limit.  The IMF warned us that this limit should never be crossed, otherwise a most harsh austerity would be required.  Yet, the BLP crossed this limit and plunged Barbados into an unsustainable debt.  The BLP took Barbados’ national debt to an irresponsible and unsustainable 90% GDP.  The DLP provided perhaps the worst possible response to our debt situation, allowing it to balloon to an irresponsible and unsustainable 150% GDP.

The obvious solution would be to simply respect the debt limit or bring the national debt back to the safety of below 40% GDP as soon as possible.  Instead, both the BLP and DLP administrations allowed the national debt to balloon out of control.

Over the past 5 years, in a moment of sheer lunacy, many Barbadians provided children with tablets and smart phones with Internet access, where they can watch other children being repeatedly raped.

Our elected representatives are preparing to allow cell phones in our schools, which will allow widespread distribution of pornography among our children.  The increase in abortions, STDs, rapes, kidnappings, murders, low productivity, etc are foreseen.  The obvious solution is to block pornography as a default.  As expected, this solution is being ignored by our representatives – so, once again, we will have to pay a most heavy price for the foreseen consequences.

At this time in our history, we should be more mature in our approach to solving problems.  Our elected politicians tend to ignore problems until they are completely unmanageable.  When the harmful consequences are plainly obvious and are publicised, then they tend to blame parents, the private sector, the Church, and even God, for not doing enough, but they never blame themselves.

Watching the country being run this way is very frustrating – but it is the system that we must accept.  The only hope for Barbados is for voters to finally realise that both established parties have no actual solutions by the time the next general election is called, and to look for a competent alternative.  Solutions Barbados is that competent alternative.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Telling the People the Truth

CADRES recently conducted a poll in order to identify voters’ political party preferences.  Most voters polled reportedly preferred either the BLP or the DLP.  After analysing the poll, I understood how voters could be easily manipulated.

When asking questions, there is normally a context around which each question is framed, that can result in different answers.  For example, there is a difference in asking “Should we ban Gromoxone?”, “Gromoxone is an effective herbicide that keeps gardens tidy, should we ban Gromoxone?” and “Gromoxone is the poison of choice for suicidal persons, should we ban Gromoxone?”  The results will tend to vary depending on how the question is framed.

In the first question, responders are not given a frame of reference.  In the second, the frame is positive – “keeps gardens tidy”.  In the third, the frame is negative – “poison of choice for suicidal persons”.  The frame in which the question is placed can allow us to accurately predict the majority response to the last two questions.  However, the majority response to the first unframed question can also be determined based on the national frame at the time.

For example.  If in one week, there were 5 publically reported suicides by drinking Gromoxone, just before persons were polled, then the question would have already been framed by the tragic events.  The emotional response would likely be that many would support some type of restriction.  However, a different response can be expected if there were no suicides by drinking Gromoxone in the past 15 years, and if the media were not participating in a campaign against Gromoxone.  Therefore, what is trending in the media can result in misleading poll results.

CADRES’ poll questions were already framed by the news media reports of current events, and by public commentators who have access to the media.  News media have a higher responsibility to be fair during times of national decisions.  One side of a national discussion should not be deprived of ‘oxygen’, while allowing the other side unfettered access to the media.  The public should be exposed to both sides of a debate.

The national frame around any question of the economy is that the ruling DLP administration is responsible for the current economic hardship, and they are incapable of managing our national economy.  The recent poll results appear to confirm this public sentiment.  However, what if the public were given the whole truth?

If the public is not told about the reckless and unsustainable borrowing during the BLP administration, then they will reasonably tend to blame the DLP, who must repay these debts, for their current circumstances.  However, if the public was told the truth, that both the BLP and the DLP administrations have brought us to the point of economic ruin, and that both parties’ policies are designed to generally keep most Barbadians house-poor and living pay-cheque to pay-cheque, then perhaps they would be willing to look at the policies of a third party.

If the public is told to dismiss all third parties because they are just parties of 1 or 5 persons, then they would likely dismiss them.  However, if they were told the truth that Solutions Barbados is the only third party with 25 candidates and intends to run 30 competent candidates, then perhaps they would dismiss the clever but inaccurately defined frame, and actually consider Solutions Barbados.

If the public is told that Solutions Barbados has no plan to address Barbados’ failing economy, then they would likely dismiss them.  However, if they were ever told the truth that Solutions Barbados is the only party to have published a non-austerity economic plan over 2 years ago, for rigorous public scrutiny, then they would have an accurate frame, and not the fake frame that others are actively promoting.  The plan is on SolutionsBarbados.com.

What if the austerity, harsh medicine, long hardship, bitter pills, and no-easy-fixes that the BLP and DLP are promising were actually explained to voters?  What if the BLP and DLP actually told the voters “If you vote for us, then your salary will be reduced, you will lose your job, you will lose your house if you are not earning foreign currency, and you will also lose everything that you are purchasing on credit.  You will suck salt, and your children will suck whatever is left after the salt that you have voted to suck is gone.”

In Guyana, the IMF made them double their income tax rates and devalue their currency by 70%.  Guyana was left with a ruined economy, dilapidated infrastructure, shortage of critical supplies, reduced social services, mass emigration of professionals, and 75% of the population in poverty.

Who would be so lunatic to vote for that bitter pill?  The CADRES poll demonstrated that Barbadian voters would enthusiastically vote for the economic ruin of their households, communities and country if the question was not accurately framed.

For completion, I should identify another possible explanation.  We are so accustomed to not believing what our elected politicians promise, that we simply do not believe them when they promise us that their policies will drive us and our children into poverty.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com