Who Should Go Home?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1522515022377{padding-top: 30px !important;padding-right: 30px !important;padding-bottom: 50px !important;padding-left: 30px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”]Central Bank Governor has been asked to resign.  From published reports, it appears that the Board members disagreed with the Governor’s plans to improve the management of the Bank.  If this is the only reason, and if this will be the new criterion for dismissing those responsible for managing public services, then the National Insurance Scheme should prepare themselves for applications for unemployment benefits from most chief executive officers of statutory corporations, and heads of government departments, in the coming weeks.

Perhaps the most important Board activities are to set attainable performance standards for the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to meet, and then monitoring the CEO’s performance with effective accountability measures.  To reduce the risk of a CEO misleading the Board, one of the first responsibilities of any Board of public services is to specify a management system within which the Government service will be developed and delivered, and the performance standards attained.

Given the frequent complaints about poor government services, it seems that our CEOs and department managers have not established an effective management system.  If this is true, then the Boards are not performing their most basic function.

There is a basic international standard for managing an organisation.  The Quality Management System’s reference is ISO 9001 and it is available to the Government of Barbados.  Those Boards who have failed to direct their Chief Executive Officers to implement the ISO 9001 Quality Management System have done the Statutory Corporation’s longsuffering employees, and frustrated customers, a grave disservice.

When management of specific government services was transferred from Permanent Secretaries to Boards, the principal assumption was that placing public services under private sector influenced Board management would result in the improved management of the government services.  However, those public services that remained within government departments, and were managed by Permanent Secretaries, appear to offer no worse a quality of service.  Therefore, the experiment with Boards has failed to significantly improve the management of public services in Barbados, and those Permanent Secretaries who were relieved of their responsibilities can feel vindicated.

The principal reason for Boards’ relative ineffectiveness appears to be that Board members were selected by the measure of their loyalty to the political party in power – a proven recipe for failure.

So what should we do right now.  First, all Boards that have not directed their CEOs to implement the ISO 9001 quality management system have demonstrated an intolerable level of incompetence.  Therefore, they should be dissolved immediately, and the management authority should be reverted to the relevant Permanent Secretaries.

Second, all Permanent Secretaries should direct all Statutory Corporation CEO’s and department managers to implement the ISO 9001 Quality Management System with dispatch.  Third, CEOs and managers who delay the implementation of the ISO 9001 Quality Management System are harming public sector employees and frustrating the public, and should be directed to seek their fortune elsewhere.

Barbados public employees can thrive within a properly managed work environment, but they are being held back.  Barbados has wasted at least 20 years unnecessarily keeping public sector employees down, while other countries have improved.  An example in a paper titled “ISO 9000 and the public sector” by Dr. Lawrence Eicher, ISO Secretary-General, should suffice.

In 1997, the customs department in El Salvador was very poorly managed, with “problems relating to sanitary conditions, delays in customs proceedings, unduly long merchandise dispatch times, abuses of confidence, accumulation of merchandise in holds and hundreds of tonnes of abandoned goods.”

“In response, the top management of the Ministry of Finance launched a rigorous clean-up plan in June 1997, which included ISO 9000 implementation.  As a result, the customs service has been transformed into the most modern in the region with much faster enquiry response times, dramatically improved efficiency, practically no complaints and increased customer satisfaction.

The change for the better has been such that Salvadoran Customs is visited by delegations from Latin American countries to analyse the impact of ISO 9000. The programme was so successful that it was followed up with others in the Directorate General of Internal Taxes and the Internal Tax Court of Appeals.”

“Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the Salvadoran project for deep cultural change in an organization, is that it was implemented without dismissing a single employee, many of whom had worked in the Ministry of Finance for more than 20 years and were over 50 years of age.”

So, rather than planning to send home another few thousand public employees, try keeping the employees, changing the management system, and dismissing the managers who attempt to frustrate the process.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Voting to Suck Salt

[vc_row][vc_column css=”.vc_custom_1522621418320{padding-top: 30px !important;padding-right: 30px !important;padding-bottom: 50px !important;padding-left: 30px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1522522119664{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”]Barbadians are finally waking up to the reality that we are on the brink of economic ruin.  Recommendations of currency devaluation and surrendering Barbados to the IMF are being made by prominent economists.  Even newspaper editorials are finally sounding the alarm after ignoring the warning signs for so long.

Barbadians are also waking up to the reality that this election will have grave consequences for their families.  Some prominent media persons appear to have resigned to the idea that it will be very bad, regardless of who is elected to form the next government.  They have repeated that lie so often that gullible voters are starting to be convinced.

It is now obvious to everyone that the DLP’s best efforts have failed to improve our economy.  After many have had to endure about a decade of trying to hold on, the DLP’s most recent plan is one where we must suck the proverbial salt for at least another 4 years.  It is as if they are begging the public not to vote for them.

As if that were not bad enough, the BLP stated that they would not be able to solve our economic problems during their first term in office.  So we are supposed to suck salt for the full 5 years of a BLP administration.  Again, it is as if they were just pleading with the public not to vote for them.

The BLP have several operatives who pretend to be non-partisan.  Their constant advice is to simply elect the BLP and then hold them accountable.  That is a lunatic idea because we have never been able to hold any BLP or DLP politician or administration accountable over the past 50 years.

Why would political operatives make such an easily disproven claim?  It appears that they were promised a place near the trough, where they can hope for spillage when the politicians feed.  So they will say or do anything in order to obtain or maintain their place.

We have run out of time for such selfish political games.  If the economy does not improve soon, then within one year, approximately one third of those with home mortgages will lose their houses, and within 3 years, most of the middle class will be reduced to poverty.  Therefore, it is critical that all political plans be subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny.

The DLP have already revealed their high-austerity plan.  The BLP claims that they have a high-austerity plan, but they will not allow anyone to examine it.  Further, they stated that they will not release it until six (6) weeks after they are elected.  Why anyone would even consider voting for that sort of arrogance is a mystery.

The UPP also have a high-austerity plan, and have agreed to submit it for independent examination, but they have not yet done so.  Solutions Barbados published their proven and workable plan over 2.5 years ago for rigorous public scrutiny.  It has been submitted to several independent economists and accountants for their critical review.

We recently received our first review results, which noted that our assumptions are ultra-conservative, and our plan eliminates the deficit and provides a surplus in our first year.  This means that we would have reversed all of the downgrades and returned Barbados to investment grade in our first year.  The reviewer also noted that the other political parties should seriously consider our plan.

Why does the media appear to only report on the BLP’s and DLP’s high-austerity pronouncements, and the economists’ currency devaluation and IMF based plans, but continue to ignore the only workable non-austerity plan on the table.  Why do the media appear so desperate for Barbados to suck the salt that Guyana and Jamaica were forced to experience?

In this election, the only two available choices are to vote for Solutions, or vote to suck salt.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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 NextParty246@gmail.com

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 NextParty246@gmail.com

HERO OR VILLAIN.

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 NextParty246@gmail.com

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 NextParty246@gmail.com