Month: October 2017

Keep Your Head Down

The slavery experience of our foreparents has left a legacy that we still struggle with today.  It is a legacy that everyone who has tried to improve a situation has felt.  Over the past quarter-century, I have talked with many persons who saw something being done incorrectly, whether on a construction site, or at a social function, or in a business, and they said nothing.

Why are we so reluctant to identify a problem, or stop an injustice, or stand up to a bully?  Why do so few Barbadians speak or write or act when we see something that ought not to done?  The typical reason that people give is that they did not want to draw attention to themselves by getting involved.

Challenging unfairness or recommending improvements will get you noticed.  During slavery, being noticed could mean getting raped if you were a girl, or being beaten if you were a man.  So everyone learnt to keep their heads down and just try to finish their work without being noticed.  This attitude has persisted, and I have found that it requires a conscientious effort to change.

In my youth, I used to enjoy watching kung-fu movies at the cinemas.  There would typically be some unmannerly adults in the audience who would put their feet on the chair in front of them and shout obscenities and insults across the room, but no-one ever said anything to them.  I learnt to keep my head down in order not to attract their attention, and just enjoy the movie.  By this time in my life, I had seen numerous instances of injustices, and wondered why responsible adults were never around during those times.

In my late teen years, while waiting for a kung-fu movie to start, and listening to the familiar string of obscenities and insults, I remember making myself a promise.  I told myself that when I reached 30 years of age, I would be the adult that I was hoping for during my youth.  When I was 30, I kept that promise and continued to keep it for the next 2 decades to this day.

Over the past 51 years of our independence, Barbados has had no shortage of competent persons with high integrity.  However, we were starved of persons who were willing to actually do something meaningful to bring about the much needed change to the benefit of all Barbadians.  We have had political columnists, moderators, commentators and calypsonians who would entertain us by giving voice to what we felt, but were too intimidated to say.  However, their efforts rarely resulted in national improvements.

There are two likely methods of solving national problems.  The first is to convince a ruling political administration to pursue effective and economical solutions.  The second method is to form a political party, assemble a set of highly competent persons of high integrity, and provide the electorate with a competent alternative.

I have tried the first method for almost 2 decades.  It is akin to sitting up and being noticed, much like the columnists and calypsonians, and like them, I was tolerated to a certain extent.  However, like them, I have seen no national improvement from my efforts.  Had our arrogant politicians not brought us to the brink of economic ruin, I would likely have continued to simply sit up and lobby for change.

I am now back in the Plaza cinema, the unruly fellows have their feet on the back of the chairs and are shouting their now familiar string of obscenities and insults at their targets.  Most of the audience have their heads down, not wanting to attract their attention.  The bullies are arrogant because they have intimidated the crowd for the past 51 years and the audience’s fear has sustained them.  However, this time, I stand up, and turn around, and face them, and whatever will happen will happen.  Barbados, you decide whether I face them alone.

Who is to Blame?

We arrived at a Government department before 11:00 am and the door was locked. About 9 persons were inside and it was rumoured that the staff were going to lunch after those inside had been processed.  The last person to be processed came out at 11:09 am.  Then some of the staff came out with cell phones to their ears, and walked through the line of customers waiting outside of the locked door.  They did not share any information with us, their customers.

At 11:22 am, someone stuck a sign on the door that stated “We are temporarily closed at this time.  Re-opening time: 12:30 pm.  We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”  A guard noted that they were short staffed, and it was possible that at 12:30 pm, it would be announced that they were closed for the rest of the day.

We who reside in Barbados are not surprised at this true account.  We are accustomed to the: long lines, delays, late responses, misplaced files, downed computer systems, critical person is at lunch or is not at work, non-payment by credit card, deadline of 3:00 pm for receiving payments, unwritten regulations known only to the regulator, inconsistent regulations, not-at-this-branch responses, staff shortages, broken equipment, supply shortages, potholes, water shortages, the same excuses, uncaring attitudes, and so on.

Our public services do not appear to be customer-focused.  But they think that they are.  They think that being polite is being customer focused.  It is not.  It is simply being polite.  Being customer focused is trying to delight the customer.  Most customers of government services simply want to access affordable quality services conveniently and quickly.  Politely apologising why this cannot be done does not deliver the service to the customer.

Who is responsible for our poorly managed public services?  Not the poorly managed employees who are simply performing as directed.  Not their managers who are simply implementing a management system that is not working.  The ones responsible for setting the management standard are our elected politicians.

Both political administrations accuse the other of poor management when they are not in power.  Therefore, both political administrations understand what all customers of Government services understand in this regard.  Namely, that our public services are poorly managed.  However, is it fair to blame our politicians?  I think not.

Both political administrations have tried their best to manage Government services over the past 50 years.  Over the past 17 years, I have encouraged both administrations to improve the management of public services.  I have referred both political administrations to the customer-focused international quality management standard ISO 9001.

Barbados has been a corresponding member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) since our independence, and a full member since 1999.  Yet both political administrations just cannot seem to bring themselves to implement this international customer-focused management system for our benefit.

This is the first election since our independence where Barbadians can finally decide on the quality of Government services they wish.  We pay for our Government services.  We elect politicians to set management standards and ensure that they work properly for us.  It seems that our politicians have defined themselves as the main customers to which public workers should focus on satisfying.  We have allowed them over 50 years to get it right, and they simply were not up to the task.

If you are satisfied with the present management of our Government services, then you should vote for either the BLP or DLP, because the result will be the same – for you.  However, if you want a customer-focused public service where you are the customer, then your only choice is to vote for the Solutions Barbados candidate in your constituency.  If you want better managed public services, and you still vote for the BLP or the DLP, then you finally have someone to blame – yourself.

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

The Death Spiral

As expected, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Barbados’ sovereign credit rating yet again, this time to CCC.  As long as the DLP continues to follow their developmental philosophy of high taxation, then further downgrades and eventual currency devaluation are certain.  So what is the solution?

First, we need to understand that the DLP’s developmental philosophy has benefitted Barbados immensely.  However, their philosophy no longer works when we have entered the death spiral.  Our problem is that the DLP continues to stubbornly embrace their failing philosophy, which will certainly ruin Barbados.  Pharaoh’s heart appears to be hardened to any good economic advice.

Some think that the solution is to simply change administrations.  That thinking is valid in normal circumstances.  However, once we have entered the death spiral, special measures are required to get us out.  The BLP and DLP are as inexperienced as all third parties in getting us out of this level of debt.  Therefore, the critical question that responsible voters need to ask those offering to manage Barbados’ economy is: how do you plan to get us out of this death spiral?

The DLP’s management of the economy has been continually examined by the international rating agencies. The now familiar downgrade announcements simply chart our progress to foreseen economic ruin.  However, would anything improve if voters selected the BLP?  To assess the likely outcome, we need to examine the BLP’s development philosophy.

The BLP’s development philosophy is to finance Barbados’ development through debt.  Barbados has benefitted immensely from this philosophy.  However, their philosophy no longer works when we have entered the death spiral.  Our problem is that BLP is also blinded by their developmental philosophy.  Even as we are racing towards economic ruin, the BLP’s solution is to burden Barbados with even more debt – they simply know no other way.

To get out of this death spiral, we need to understand how we got in.  All economic enterprises, whether they are households, businesses or countries, should be run within safe operating boundaries.  Banks normally protect individuals (and their families) and business owners (and their employees) from going outside of these boundaries, by limiting the amount of debt they can acquire based on their income.

Individuals or business owners may acquire additional debt from other sources.  However, once it reaches an unsustainable tipping point, then they enter the death spiral where their families will eventually have to vacate their houses, and their employees will eventually become unemployed.

Our elected politicians negotiate national loans on our behalf.  However, unlike individuals and business owners, international funding agencies willingly lend politicians any amount, but inflict punishing interest charges on citizens based on the risks of lending.  The IMF warned us citizen not to allow our politicians to enter the death spiral.  We enter this spiral when our debt exceeds 40% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The BLP took us from the safety of 30% GDP debt to approximately 90% GDP debt.  Entering the death spiral is deceptive, since there is very little change in the circumference or size of the circle in the initial cycles.  However, as we move from the rim and inevitably travel downward towards the eventual drain, then with each successive cycle, the circle gets smaller, the effects of each cycle become more noticeable, and we become more alarmed.

If Barbados has the misfortune of electing the DLP, or any party that shares the BLP’s failed philosophy, then Barbados is sunk.  Solutions Barbados is the only party that has published a non-austerity plan for getting Barbados out of this death spiral.  It has undergone over 2 years of rigorous public scrutiny and is available on SolutionsBarbados.com.

Essentially it comprises 4 proven main steps.  The first is to increase Government revenues by lowering taxes and making them fair, and easier to calculate, pay and audit.  The second is to increase productivity in both the public and private sectors by managing each Government service to the international customer-focused quality management standard, ISO 9001.

The third step is to effectively address corruption by fining those who receive and pay bribes up to 10 times the value of the bribe, and rewarding the whistle-blower with the full value of the bribe.  The last step is to depoliticise the civil service by ensuring that all public workers are promoted on merit alone.  The details are on SolutionsBarbados.com.

In the upcoming election, the choice for voters could not be clearer.  We either complete the death spiral by voting for politicians who embrace the failed philosophies of the DLP and BLP that have brought us to this point, or we get out of this death spiral by voting for Solutions Barbados candidates.  Decide Barbados.

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