No Pride No Industry

Barbadians were an exceptionally enterprising people.  During slavery, our fore-parents were forced to work without payment.  After slavery, they were paid for their labour.  But the evidence of their labour, both during and after slavery, showed that they produced work to an exceptionally high standard.

By the time of our Independence, most Barbadians had marketable skills by the age of 18 years.  Those skills included: masonry, carpentry, joinery, seam-stressing, weaving, tailoring, barbering, baking, nursing, teaching, book-keeping, farming, fishing, boat-building, machining, and the various trades required on the plantations and businesses where many of them worked.  Barbadians were justifiably proud of their industriousness.

The Barbados public service was one of the most professional and well managed of all nations.  It employed the most qualified Barbadians.  By the time of our Independence, it appeared to exceed the international management standard, ISO 9001.

Rural Barbados was mostly a collection of communities, that were connected to plantations.  Those who worked on the plantations had access to small lots, where they could plant canes and vegetables.  Those in the community supported each other.  They reaped each-others’ canes, built each-others’ houses, and shared each-others’ vegetables.

There were disagreements within families and neighbours.  But no disagreement affected the unspoken, but understood duty to those in the community.  Then something happened after our Independence to divide every community in Barbados, and the duty to share stopped.    Something also infected our public service at this time, and our professional public service came to an end.  What happened?

In 1950, everyone 21 years and over became entitled to vote.  In 1964, this was reduced to 18 years.  So, politicians visited the communities in search for votes.  Our politicians could not promise employment in the public sector, because it was protected.  So, they encouraged Barbadians to hate who they considered to be our common enemy – the white merchants and planters.

Barbados became Independent in 1966.  To prevent Barbados from self-destructing, our Constitution protected our professional public service from political abuse.  It did this by giving the Governor General the sole duty to hire, discipline and fire public workers.

Our politicians cleverly removed this protection by legislating intermediate politically appointed bodies to manage the public service.  They then recommended old-age pensioners to the post of Governor General.  Once the Governor Generals were sufficiently distracted with tiresome ceremonial duties, our professional public service became exposed to political abuse.

As each political administration sent thousands of their unqualified supporters to Government departments, they went from being highly professional to highly politicised.  Engineering is a classic example.

There were about 10 chartered engineers in three government departments in the 1970s.  One decade later, there was not a single chartered engineer to be found in the entire public service of Barbados.  Further, when it was brought to their attention that unqualified persons were occupying Engineering posts, the posts were simply renamed to Technical Officer, which automatically qualified their previously unqualified supporters.  The tragic effect on quality was foreseen.

Whenever the government changed, the winning political party sent home many of the losing party’s supporters, and filled the public service with their own.  Getting work generally did not depend on competence, but on party loyalty.

The unqualified political supporters could be quickly promoted to management positions above more qualified persons.  Since the least competent persons could be the most successful, there was little incentive for individuals to pursue excellence.  Public services quickly became extremely poorly managed, and very low standards became the new normal.

In the communities, people no longer depended on each-other, but on their politicians.  Households proudly declared their political party affiliation, and communities became firmly divided along political party lines.

Approximately 40 years ago, our politicians achieved what two hundred years of slavery never did.  They destroyed our sharing communities, dismantled our professional public service, erased our desire for excellence, and got us to blame each other for their corrupting mismanagement.

To sustain their achievements, they have convinced the current generation of Barbadians that incompetence must be tolerated, because it is the best that descendants of slaves can achieve.  They have also brainwashed their most extreme supporters, to deprive anyone who dares to question their performance.

After our politicians got the merchants to fund their political parties, our politicians had to find a new enemy for us to hate – ourselves.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at

Situation Normal – All Fouled Up.

Last week, I visited the cargo port at Grantley Adams International Airport to receive computer equipment.  To clear it, I just had to pay $10.00 stamp duty.  As I reached for my wallet to pay, I heard those four familiar words that all Barbadians who interact with Government departments know all too well: “The system is down.”  Situation normal.

They explained that this would not stop me from receiving the equipment.  All I had to do was to travel to the Bridgetown Port, pay them the $10.00, return with the receipt, and collect my goods.  Polite inefficiency.

People all over the world pay money in exchange for products.  Neither: bad weather, epidemics, wars, nor famines can affect this type of commerce.  But in Barbados, we have our computer system that can frustrate all commercial activity.  This is a secret weapon that can end all wars, and we have tested it on ourselves for far too long.  Perhaps we should export it to warring nations.

How can a computer system prevent someone from recording the transaction in a receipt book, and then transferring this information to the computer when the system is back up?  Why is that so impossible for our Ministers to figure out?

Government inefficiency is the main cause of private sector unproductivity.  It is the extremely poor management of public services that makes Barbados a challenging place to do business.

For those who have been around for a while, we know the likely reason why the system is down.  It is the same reason why almost everything that the Government purchases must be very high-maintenance, very high-cost, and not fit for purpose.  It is the way of the corrupting no-bid contracts, which must go to favoured political supporters.

The normal way of ensuring quality, at an economical price, is through competitive tendering.  However, those who contribute to political campaigns are shielded from competing, and tend to be the least competent.   Since there is no competition, they can charge twice what it would normally cost to do the work.  This allows them to make more political contributions when called upon.  It also means higher taxes for us to pay them this ‘contribution’ – thanks Ministers.

When projects are given to those less-competent political supporters, we can expect that anything that they touch will be done poorly, and require excessive maintenance.  So we can expect the excuses that we are now accustomed, like: the system is down, schools openings are delayed, the department is closed for cleaning, busses and garbage trucks have broken down, the operating theatre is down, the equipment is not working, etc.

Barbados can be a challenging place to do business for those who do not participate in corruption.  To simply pay $10.00 to the Government of Barbados, I must stop working on my client’s projects for a relatively long period of time.

I hate corruption.  However, I understand how some people can be so frustrated by the unnecessary inefficiencies, that they can be tempted to pay a ‘tip’ just get to the next step of an inefficient process.

Barbados’ main problem is very poor management.  It has nothing to do with the amount of resources available.  Our political leaders simply do not manage public services well.  Therefore, we can bring in 300 buses and garbage trucks, and expect that most of them will soon stop working.

We can hire 10 new judges, and frustrate them in the same badly managed judicial system – so we can expect 10 times the number of adjournments and lost files.  We keep putting the cart before the horse.  Why not properly manage the resources that we have, and then determine whether we actually need any more resources?  Why is that so hard?  It is not.  But we must be made to think that it is.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at


We have been repeatedly pressed to declare how well our Prime Minister performed during tropical storm Dorian.  No matter how many times we have responded, the requests keep coming.  To avoid further requests for a comment, our full response follows.

As the storm approached, our Prime Minister: explained the situation, encouraged people to prepare, closed businesses at a reasonably time, attended drainage clearing sites to verify that the work was being done, and did other similarly important things.

Our Prime Minister appeared to do these things in a calm and decisive manner.  She appeared to competently manage the protocols for a tropical storm.  All Barbadians should feel justifiably proud of our Prime Minister’s heroic performance.  So well done Madam Prime Minister.

What needs to be emphasised, is that our Prime Minister’s actions were appropriate for a tropical storm that should do minor damage.  Had we experienced Hurricane Dorian like the Bahamas, then no one, except the most extreme partisan supporters, would be praising Prime Minister (PM) Mottley’s efforts.

Our homes should be our primary shelters.  If the house is not sufficiently strong, then the occupants should move to a stronger shelter.  In 1993, under PM Sandiford, Barbados finally had a building code to inform homeowners and their contractors how to build strong houses.  It was a very easy-to-understand document, and added little to no additional construction cost.

PM Arthur won the general election in 1994.   In 1995, banks in Barbados started offering 100% mortgages, which started a massive residential building boom.  Fortuitously, Barbados had a new Building Code at the right time.  Regrettably, PM Arthur, who was responsible for Town and Country Planning, did not enforce or actively encourage the Code’s use during his 14-year term.

Part of PM Arthur’s real legacy, is the thousands of unnecessarily sub-standard houses that were built during his administration.  PM Stuart continued PM Arthur’s legacy of overseeing the construction of substandard houses, by not enforcing the Building Code.  However, he unpredictably went a lot further – in the wrong direction.

PM Stuart claimed to be flabbergasted at the fragility of houses in Barbados, after the damage done by Tropical Storm Tomas in 2010.  However, even that did not convince him to actively encourage the use of our Building Code.  Instead, his administration abolished it.  Thus, Barbados, in one of the most hazard prone regions on this planet, became the only nation on Earth to offer no meaningful structural building guidance to its residents.

PM Mottley inherited this unfortunate mess, and seemed well prepared to solve it.  She experienced the devastation caused by Hurricane Gilbert in Jamaica in 1988.  She was aware of the two Category 5 Hurricanes that caused major damage to our Caribbean neighbours in 2017.  Following the General Election in 2018, she declared that Hurricanes were one of the two things she fared most.

We seemed to be in good hands – PM Mottley would play the hero.  She would make building strong and durable houses a priority.  Tragically, she has embraced the damaging legacy of PM Stuart.  This should all but ensure that we will suffer a worse fate than those in other islands, if we experience a similar hurricane.  Why someone, who held such promise, chose such an irresponsible path, is a question that only she can answer.

Our PM still has time to play the hero by doing three simple, but highly effective things.  They will cost her administration no money and very little effort.  First, she should temporarily unabolish the 1993 Barbados National Building Code, for use in the residential construction sector only.  We should never abolish something unless we can replace it with something better.

Second, the 1993 Building Code should be published on the Internet and made freely available to residents.  Third, the Town Planning department should add the following standard condition of approval for residential applications.  “Construction should comply with the structural requirements of the 1993 edition of the Barbados National Building Code”.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at

Found: Barbados’ Priceless Treasure.

Approximately one week ago, I learnt of a magnificent coral-stone structure found at Fort George Heights. It reportedly had 26 beautiful arches, and a series of coral-stone masonry arched roofs approximately 12 ft high.

This seemed to be a rare find. These were not the typical decorative archways. Rather, these were structural unreinforced arches out of coral-stone masonry. I could not believe Barbados’ good fortune.

We have lost the art of stone masonry. But here we had an almost perfect example of highly complex coral-stone masonry.  It is more complex than our Parliament buildings, which are simple walls.

I am unaware of a similar series of coral-stone arched roofs on any structure on this planet. It is a unique and priceless international historical treasure.

Last week, the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) destroyed approximately half of this wonderful structure, before the Barbados National Trust got them to realise the horrific blunder they were making. To their credit, the BWA stopped the demolition.

The next obvious steps were to: prepare as-built drawings of the structure, do a structural condition survey, and manage this priceless treasure on behalf of all humanity.

The structure had survived gravity and lateral loads, so I planned to visit the site today to check whether there were any cracks in the blocks or mortar joints. There are so many scientific papers that could be published on this most important find – perhaps the ninth wonder of the world.

I had heard a rumour that the Government demanded that the remaining structure be demolished. I dismissed it as fake news, because no one could be that stupid.

As I made my way up Fort George hill, I was overcome with excitement at the anticipation of examining the beautiful unreinforced stone arches – the only such arches on this Earth (to my knowledge). However, when I approached the site, all I saw was rubble. The Contractor had completely demolished every single arch. I was overcome with a different emotion – anger.

How could we. How could we be so stupid. We have demonstrated that of all of the people who came from Adam, that we are the most … stupid. It is not thought possible that such stupidity could reside in humans, but we proved otherwise.

The BWA Board and CEO should resign immediately. All 30 MPs and all senators should resign in shame and disgrace – tonight. Everyone who knew about the lunatic decision to demolish this priceless international treasure, should be taken to Jenkins for a psychiatric examination. How could they?

This is no low order idiocy.  This is idiocy of the highest order.  They are worse than ISIS.  ISIS uses Islam to justify destroying world treasures.  We have no such excuse. If we cannot be trusted with this priceless treasure, the only one left on this planet, then what can we be trusted with? How could we be so blasted stupid? Good grief!

Make Politicians Pay.

The Drainage department is responsible for cleaning drains.  If they do not clean the drains, then there may be flood damage, which is a public concern.  We are all liable for public concerns, and may have to pay additional taxes to repair any flood damage.

If I prevented the Drainage department from cleaning a drain, and rainfall then caused flooding downstream, then this is not a public concern, but a private matter.  The damage resulted from my actions.  Therefore, I should be liable for any flood damage, not the public.

The Town Planning department is responsible for the orderly development of the built environment.  When people build without Planning permission, the Town Planning department is supposed to enforce their regulations on behalf of the public.

When people squat on vacant land, then that is a public concern.  If politicians prevent the Town Planning department from enforcing their regulations, then it is no longer a public concern, but a private political matter.  Those political parties should be liable for any costs to rectify the situation that they caused.

For decades, both BLP and DLP administrations have interfered with the normal public process, and changed public concerns to private concerns that they should pay to rectify.  However, every time that the established political parties have messed things up, they simply raised additional taxes to pay for their mistakes.

For over 40 years, both political parties have used the national treasury as their political party account.  That was wrong.  The issue with the Rock Hall squatters is simply the latest glaring example of public money being misused to pay for private political concerns.

If the Town Planning department was allowed to do its job, then we would not be forced to make political payments to squatters.  Why can’t political parties make their own political payments?

We have been asked for our solution to the Rock Hall squatter problem.  However, that is a private matter between the BLP, DLP and the squatters to whom they made reckless promises.

Solutions Barbados’ Squatting Solution.

To address all squatting, we must acknowledge that persons may temporarily find themselves financially embarrassed at some time in their lives.  If they cannot cope, then that is a public concern.  We propose that the Government reserve approximately 30 acres of crown land, and subdivide it into 1,500 sq-ft lots.  On each lot, a hurricane resistant chattel house, not larger than 600 sq-ft, should be allowed.

This should provide approximately 600 houses, in which those in temporary unfortunate circumstances can reside while they recover.  Residents are expected to recover within one year, during which time rent may be waived.  To discourage persons from using the houses as permanent shelters, rent should increase each year.

It is important that the Government make policies for all Barbadians, not just those whom they made reckless political promises during the last general election.  Politicians should keep their political promises, but they should not raid our national treasury, or increase our tax burden, to do so.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at